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Silent Majority, White Minority: Donald Trump, White Nationalism, And The New GOP Platform

Last week, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump used a Facebook post to respond to Thursday night’s lethal assault on Dallas police officers during a Black Lives Matter protest.

His sober response to the killings was out of character for Trump, who has previously used comparable tragedies as opportunities for self-promotion. But part of the reaction to Trump’s statement fell extremely short of noble. Indeed, the candidate’s Facebook followers presented a frenzy of white-people paranoia, commenting with calls for tactical militia training and assertions that race war is either already upon us, or coming down fast — as they say — with some alleging President Obama was behind it (to enact Martial Law, for unnamed reasons). At least one commenter included the ominous hashtag “#WhiteGenocide.”

By now, the political press, the GOP, and the country at large have been forced to accept that Donald Trump is the candidate for white supremacists. Trump might not be a racist himself, and the majority of his supporters deserve the benefit of the doubt — not counting notions of implicit bias, for now — but reconciling the Republican candidate’s popularity among his overall constituency with his appeal to white supremacists is an unavoidable chore that can’t be ignored forever. The relationship between these groups blurs the line between patriotism and nationalism. They are united by Trump, but do they like the bully-nosed candidate for the same reasons?

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Republican Platform Committee essentially adopted Trump’s “America First” policies on trade and immigration. Following Trump, the GOP is moving toward protectionist restrictions on free trade; it called for construction of Trump’s wall along the country’s “most vulnerable borders”; it will impose a 5-year prison sentence for illegal immigrants caught attempting to return to the U.S. after deportation; and the party declared political refugees who “cannot be carefully vetted” will be denied admittance to the United States, “especially those [refugees] whose homelands have been the breeding ground for terrorism” — such as Syria, where civil war has left hundreds of thousands dead and displaced nearly 10 million asylum seekers.

This new GOP platform — which caters to the new Trump Republicans — will be embraced by white nationalists for the same reason they support Trump: They detest so-called “globalism,” multiculturalism, and diversity, favoring instead nationalization and protectionism. Trump shares these views. But Trump’s popularity is deeper than nationalists applauding his insults against Muslims and Mexicans, which would carry less weight if not for his aggressive opposition to free trade.

Why don’t white nationalists like free trade?

In May, Fusion interviewed William Johnson, the white nationalist “mistakenly” chosen by Trump’s campaign to serve as a delegate for the State of California. Johnson told Fusion “The epic battle from here on out is not the battle between progressives and conservatives… the battle is between the globalists and the nationalists.”

Johnson, 61, designates “Mitt Romney Republicans” and “Hillary Clinton Democrats,” and “the rest of the mainstream,” as globalist enemies in this battle. Johnson said Trump is “the herald, the leader, the founder of the resurgence of the nationalist platform.”

Johnson’s nationalist platform “promotes a homogenous population” and opposes globalism, which he describes as “empire-building by corporations” that encourages open borders and consumerism — forces nationalism stands against because, as Johnson said, consumerism is “just ‘Make make make, buy buy buy. Grow the NDP, make a lot of money for shareholders.’ That’s wrong.”

Johnson further lamented that globalists “promote multiculturalism and diversity, and that is killing the white race.”

He is against feminism, which he views as a construct of globalism. Johnson said “nationalism supports a strong, male leader… And globalism promotes the touchy-feely, feminist approach we’ve had for so long.”

“People are yearning for a strong, male figure,” Johnson said. “White males have been beaten down for a long time in this country, and Donald Trump is the resurgence of the strong male leader.”

“We need to move beyond feminism and support the traditional family, where the husband works and the wife raises the family. And they can afford to live in their own home on a single workers’ income and raise their children. That’s the ideal solution. That’s the solution in the ‘50s, and when Trump said ‘Make America Great Again,’ that’s what we think it means.”

(There are a lot of reasons the United States cannot replicate the prosperous 1950s. The post-World War II economic boom was the result of various sources of enormous social and fiscal influence that Donald Trump could not recreate with tariffs or treaties or a Mexican border wall, and neither could anyone else. Not to mention, you know, America’s lynching epidemic was still coming to a close in the 1950s.)

Some of what Johnson argues — about corporations and greed-soaked consumerism — borrows from pro-union, protectionist, anti-WTO rhetoric. In an interview with The National Memo, Johnson said he is not a “right-wing” in the economic sense. He advocates an anti-capitalism, he says, and in fact supported the Occupy Wall Street movement. But his white supremacist politics clear, and talking points such as “killing the white race” and “homogenous population” have become mainstream due to the Internet activity of people like Johnson. It’s one thing to say free trade is bad for U.S. workers — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders would agree — but it’s quite another to say globalization is killing off whites.

“White Genocide”

In February, on behalf of Trump’s campaign, Johnson’s American National Super PAC unleashed a round of robocalls in which Johnson encouraged voters to vote for Trump in spite of their fears of being labelled a racist, Talking Points Memo reports. He called for them to help stop the “gradual genocide against the white race.”

Perusing white supremacist message boards, one will almost immediately confront the concept of “white genocide” – a theory that argues globalism and multiculturalism are systematically driving the global population of white Europeans to extinction. Many white supremacists believe this is a conspiratorial, intentional effort.

La Salle University Sociology Professor Charles Gallagher told Inverse that using “the word ‘genocide’ to describe the demographic changes taking place in the United States is hyperbolic and serves right wide ideological purposes.” Genocide is defined as “the deliberate, systematic and coordinated killing or destruction of a people based on some particular social or physical characteristic,” he said. “And this simply does not apply to whites in the United States.”

Obviously. The legal definition of genocide provided by the United Nations corroborates La Salle’s assessment.

The term “white genocide” was coined by former Ronald Reagan staffer Bob Whitaker, who until April was a presidential candidate for the white supremacist American Freedom Party, founded by William Johnson, who serves as the group’s chairman. Johnson told The National Memo he doesn’t think white genocide is happening on purpose, but that it was a “convergence of natural factors” including interracial marriage — which he is against.

Johnson supports a “white ethno-state.” In 1985 he proposed a constitutional amendment that would have revoked the citizenship of every non-white American. He said none of this is racist.

When asked what whites bring to the table that people of color do not, Johnson provided no answer. When asked if there is a difference between “white nationalists” and “white supremacists,” Johnson said “calling us ‘white supremacists’ is like calling African Americans the n-word.”

Are Trump supporters white nationalists?

William Johnson does not speak for all of Trump’s supporters, who stand as a predominantly white but multicultural bloc. But polling shows that whites among them do share Johnson’s concerns, albeit not in as explicitly racist a way.

In March, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found Trump had the support of 43 percent of voters who think whites are “losing out because of preferences for blacks and Hispanics.”

The Washington Post reports that further analysis showed “racial anxiety was at least as important as economic anxiety — the factor most commonly associated with Trump backers — in predicting support for Trump.” The two factors were statistically similar, but those “who voiced concerns about white status appeared to be even more likely to support Trump than those who said they were struggling economically.”

Scott Clement, polling manager for the Post, said “What was striking to me in analyzing the data is that even after controlling for a variety of demographics and attitudes, believing whites are losing out continued to be a key predictor of Trump support.”

Data from Rand Corp’s 2016 Presidential Election Panel Survey showed “Trump performs best among Americans who express more resentment toward African Americans and immigrants and who tend to evaluate whites more favorably than minority groups,” wrote political scientist Michael Tesler, reporting for The Washington Post.

The survey measures resentment toward African Americans and immigrants using statements like “blacks could be just as well off as whites if they only tried harder,” and, “it bothers me when I come in contact with immigrants who speak little or no English.”

Photo: Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump leaves the podium after a speech in Virginia Beach, Virginia U.S. July 11, 2016.  REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Our Poisonous Partisan Politics

A recent study from the Pew Research Center shows that contempt across the partisan divide is bitter and widespread. Respondents displayed a nasty animosity for the opposing side and showed little sign of tolerance for conflicting views.

Party polarization has been underway for years, and the Congress has never been so divided. But the toxic, finger-pointing rabble has escaped like a demon from Capitol Hill and spread plague-like throughout the United States. The toxicity doesn’t stifle, it chokes. Discourse has become nearly impossible. Wherever one stands, the other side is no longer judged as merely wrong or misguided, but is now considered dangerously stupid and lazy; scary, dishonest, immoral, and more than anything, a threat.

In 2014, a Pew study of political polarization noted the “growing contempt that many Republicans and Democrats have for the opposing party,” and since then, “many” is now “most.”

This year, 58 percent of Republicans have a “very unfavorable impression” of Democrats, 12 percent more than two years ago and 26 percent more than in 2008. Democrats’ disdain for Republicans has followed a similar trajectory.

The 2014 survey asked Democrats and Republicans who offered “very unfavorable opinions” of the opposing party if they felt the other side was “so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being.” Thirty-seven percent of Republicans and 31 percent of Democrats felt this way, and in two years those numbers have increased by eight and 10 points, respectively.

Among Democrats, 55 percent say the Republican Party makes them feel “afraid.” Forty-nine percent of Republicans say that about Democrats. These numbers increase among the highly politically engaged, with 70 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Republicans fearing their opposition.

Disdain for the other side is as strong, and sometimes outweighs, positive feelings about the party one belongs to. Majorities of Democrats and Republicans cite their party’s platform as their deciding factor for joining, but almost as many say they were driven by “the harm caused by the opposing party’s policies.” Even independent voters, who have come to outnumber members of both major parties and tend to lean Democratic or Republican, are overwhelmingly inclined to cite negative factors for their loose partisan ties.

On a “thermometer” scale of 0-100, where zero is the coldest rating and 100 is the warmest, Democrats give Republicans the mean rating of 31, and Republicans give Democrats a 29. Things get even colder for politicians: Democrats’ average rating of Trump is 11, and Republicans, on average, give Clinton a 12.

Among Democrats, the most resonating critique of Republicans is that members of the GOP are more closed-minded than other Americans; 70 percent of Democrats feel this way. Forty-two percent of Democrats say Republicans are more dishonest, 35 percent say they are more immoral, and 33 percent say they are more unintelligent. By contrast, more than half of Republicans, 52 percent, see Democrats as more closed-minded than other Americans and nearly as many say Democrats are more immoral, dishonest, and lazy.

Not surprisingly, respondents expressed approval for members of their own party. Sixty-seven percent of Democrats consider themselves more open-minded than other Americans, and 59 percent and 51 percent of Republicans, respectively, say GOP members are more hardworking and moral. Republicans and Democrats also show a tendency to view the opposing party as highly ideological, while considering their own less ideological.

There is some hope for social cohesion among diverging parties, but little hope for helpful political discussion. The majority of Democrats and Republicans think they could get along with a new neighbor from the other party, but 42 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of Republicans say it would be easier to welcome members of their own party into the neighborhood. Democrats and Republicans are about equally inclined to say political conversation with people whom they disagree with is “stressful and frustrating” as “interesting and informative” — and either way, an equal amount of Democrats and Republicans, 44 percent, say they “almost never” agree with the other party’s positions.

The cause for this divide is unclear, but researchers suggest a merging of politics, lifestyle, and choice of residence has limited many Americans’ exposure to people with different opinions.

Pew President Michael Dimock told NPR, “If we in fact are surrounding ourselves increasingly with like-minded people, that becomes another factor that can potentially create distance between ‘our side’ and ‘their side.’”

In a 2015 article for the Washington Post, titled The top 10 reasons American politics are so broken, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and political science professor Sam Abrams write, “Liberals and conservatives dress differently, decorate their rooms differently, read different books, take different vacations and drink different alcoholic beverages. As the differences between supporters of the two parties became ever more pervasive and ever more visible to the naked eye, it became easier to spot members of the other team and then dislike them for the way they live.”

There is also the strange relationship between policy positions and political parties that seems to decide voters’ stances on how to handle seemingly disconnected issues.

“The more conservative you are on foreign policy, the more likely you are to be conservative on social issues, on economic issues, on the role of government,” Dimock said. “These dimensions, many of which had very little correlation with each other in the past, are getting increasingly aligned.”

Haidt and Abrams say this is the result of a combination of geography, immigration, and what they call ideological purification, meaning a lack of intellectual diversity within both major parties. The Republicans are conservatives and the Democrats are liberals, which was not the case before 1980.

“The Democratic Party was historically an agrarian party with its power base in the South,” Haidt and Abrams write. “But with the political purification of the parties, the Democrats have become the urban party, focused on issues of concern to city dwellers and expressing more cosmopolitan and secular values. Rural areas, meanwhile, shifted toward the Republican Party. The GOP became much more hospitable to rural interests and values, which tend to be more religious, patriotic and family-oriented.”

So why is there so much hostility on the political landscape? As Haidt and Abrams note, “a basic principle in social psychology is that people will divide themselves up quite readily based on the most trivial distinctions” – and these are not trivial matters.

Photo: Protesters confront a woman, center, leaving a rally for Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump in Fresno, California, U.S. May 27, 2016.  REUTERS/Noah Berger

Donald Trump’s Candidacy Is The Third Biggest Risk To The Global Economy. Here’s Why.

In March, the Economist Intelligence Unit, a research and intelligence firm, listed the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency as the sixth greatest risk to the global economy. By June, Trump’s candidacy had climbed up the ranking. He now stands at third place, ahead of the break-up of the European Union, a Grexit (Greek exit from the EU), jihadi terrorism, global growth surges, the Brexit, military conflict in South China Sea due to Chinese expansionism, and a future oil price shock prompted by a collapse in investment in the oil sector.

The prospect of Donald Trump being president is less of a global risk, apparently, than just two scenarios: a sharp economic slowdown in China, and a global emerging markets crisis prompted by the U.S. federal reserve raising interest rates.

Here’s why:

1. Trump v. Free Trade

“[Trump] has been exceptionally hostile towards free trade, including notably NAFTA, and has repeatedly labelled China as a ‘currency manipulator’ … In the event of a Trump victory, his hostile attitude to free trade, and alienation of Mexico and China in particular, could escalate rapidly into a trade war – and at the least scupper the Trans-Pacific Partnership between the U.S. and 11 other American and Asian states signed in February 2016.” — The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Forecasting Service

Trump has said NAFTA “was a disaster for this country,” and while any experts would agree with regard to free trade’s impact on the American middle class, most agree that for all of its faults, NAFTA expanded America’s economy and lifted global standards of living.

The North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect in 1994 and was designed to relax trade and other relations among the United States, Canada and Mexico.

In an April article for the libertarian Reason magazine, Nick Gillespie observed that when NAFTA was passed into law, U.S. unemployment was at 6.7 percent, and by 2008 – before the financial crisis – it had dropped to below 5 percent. Between 1994 and 2008, the U.S. created a net total of 25 million jobs, and according to data from Harvard economist Robert Z. Lawrence, the average wages and benefits of blue collar workers, when adjusted for inflation, increased by 11 percent.

The argument against free trade is that it incentivizes outsourcing, costing millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

On Tuesday, during a speech at an aluminum scrap metal factory in Monessen, Pennsylvania, Trump announced that if elected president, he will tell U.S.’s NAFTA partners that he intends to “immediately renegotiate the terms of that agreement to get a better deal for our workers,” and if they don’t agree to said renegotiation, Trump will “submit notice under Article 2205 of the NAFTA agreement that America intends to withdraw from the deal,” The Hill reports.

Withdrawing from NAFTA would trigger an increase in tariffs on imports from partnering countries and exports from the U.S. abroad: a “trade war.”

As Politico noted, Trump’s criticism of NAFTA is based on U.S. companies’ outsourcing of jobs; he has vilified Carrier Corporation, which is sending 1,400 manufacturing jobs to Mexico.

Trump has proposed using tariffs to discipline companies moving operations overseas and to encourage other countries to lift restrictions on U.S. exports. For instance, Trump threatened Carrier Corp. with a 35 percent tariff on all products shipped back to the U.S. He would deal with China similarly, by declaring the country a currency manipulator and imposing high “countervailing [anti-subsidy] duties” on their exports to the U.S.

Such moves would require congressional approval that he probably wouldn’t get from Republicans, as such a drastic measure would likely draw volatile protest from businesses and consumer groups alike – and although Democrats are more cautious of new trade deals, there isn’t any evidence to suggest they’d be open to dismantling 70 years of trade regulations, which could result in a recession and trade wars.

Politico reports Kathy Bostjancic, head of U.S. macro investor services at Oxford Economics in New York, wrote in an April research brief that Mexico and China would likely respond to Trump’s punitive tariffs by imposing their own on U.S. goods, which would drive the inflation rate up to 3.5 percent, and would “lower both the level of real GDP by 1.6 percent and employment by 1.4 million by 2020” – numbers less than current forecasts.

Reuters reports on Tuesday that Trump also described the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership as unsalvageable in terms of renegotiation, hinting at his intention to withdraw.

Trump said “The TPP, as it’s known, would be the death blow for American manufacturing.”

2. Trump v. the Middle East, and pro-ISIS blowback

“[Trump] has also taken an exceptionally punitive stance on the Middle East and jihadi terrorism, including, among other things, advocating the killing of families of terrorists and launching a land incursion into Syria to wipe out IS (and acquire its oil) … [Trump’s] militaristic tendencies towards the Middle East (and ban on all Muslim travel to the US) would be a potent recruitment tool for jihadi groups, increasing their threat both within the region and beyond.”

In December, Trump told Fox News he would “knock the hell out of” ISIS, and criticized the current administration for “fighting a very politically correct war.” Trump said “when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.”

In an email, EIU analyst Robert Powell told The National Memo that Trump’s brash approach would add a major spending burden to the U.S. budget and radically destabilize the Middle East, which would likely drive oil prices way up.

Less immediate effects involve strengthening the enemy.

Almost everyone agrees that U.S. military intervention is necessary in the war against ISIS and the virus of jihadi terrorism. However, Donald Trump’s proposed solution differs from that of most experts, in terms of “thuggishness.”

Boaz Ganor, a leading Israeli counter-terrorism expert and former consultant to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told CNN that “Any deliberate attacks aimed against civilians is a war crime, regardless if they are family members of terrorists or presidents or presidential candidates.”

Ganor argued Trump’s endorsed tactics would defeat “one of the most important pillars of counterterrorism: the differences of morality.”

“Adopting this policy is immoral and against the common liberal democratic values,” said Ganor, adding that, “Deliberate attacks against the terrorist families is blurring the moral differences between the terrorist organizations and the state which is fighting terrorism. This by itself might benefit the terrorists which are trying to claim that they are fighting a moral war against relentless and immoral entity.”

During a December speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition, CNN reports South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham remarked “what Mr. Trump’s saying about how to handle this war is empowering the enemy.”

“ISIL loves Donald Trump because he is giving them an opportunity to bring people their way,” Graham said.

In March, terrorism expert Malcom Nance told MSNBC “Donald Trump right now is validating the cartoonish view that they tell their operatives … that America is a racist nation, xenophobic, anti-Muslim, and that that’s why you must carry out terrorist attacks against them.”

3. Trump V. NATO: Russian Fallout

 “[Trump’s] vocal skepticism toward NATO would weaken efforts to contain Russia’s expansionist tendencies.”

Trump has said he would “certainly look at” pulling the United States out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, because, he said, the international security alliance is “obsolete” and “costing us a fortune.”

NATO was created in 1949 by the U.S., Canada and 10 Western European nations as a means of common defense against the former Soviet Union. NATO now includes 28 member nations.

Trump thinks NATO doesn’t serve its founding purpose and detests that the U.S. contributes more funding than any other member. He would like to see the alliance restructured to shift its focus to Islamic terrorism, with other members picking up more of the bill.

Over the past few years U.S.-Russian relations have drastically deteriorated in the face of a Russian expansionist movement – which ignited the Ukrainian civil war – that runs counter to NATO regulations. The U.S. and its NATO allies have imposed sanctions on Russia, deployed anti-ballistic missile systems in Romania and Poland, broadened military exercises on Russia’s borders and increased land, air, and sea forces.

Russia has responded by building up forces along the country’s Western borders – measures that include adding more nuclear capable missiles – which heightens the risk of escalation due to accident or miscalculation. In the meantime, the Washington Post reports, France and Germany have not compelled the Ukrainian government to honor the Minsk accords, written to negotiate an armistice.

Currently, in an effort to ease qualms of eastern members in the midst of tensions with Russia surrounding the Ukrainian crisis, NATO is further reinforcing forces on Russia’s borders and Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu says his military will respond with equal measures, the Associated Press reported.

4. Trump vs. the Asian Nuclear Arms Race

“Elsewhere, and arguably even more alarmingly, his stated indifference towards nuclear proliferation in Asia raises the prospect of a nuclear arms race in the world’s most heavily populated continent.”

In March, Trump said he might permit Japan and South Korea to build nuclear weapons arsenals to ease U.S. defense commitments.

Experts say this would be incredibly dangerous.

Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told Business Insider that Japan developing nuclear weapons would be a “total catastrophe for Japan and US nuclear power programs.”

Lewis said Trump’s reasoning is an outdated pretense under which the U.S. used to operate. “Everybody has a friend,” Lewis said. “And so if you can give them the path of saying it’s good when our allies have them and bad when our enemies have them, you get to the point where everybody has them. It’s better to have a system … in which we say no more nuclear-weapons states and try to maintain that.”

Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat-reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, said “This idea that this would bring more security to Japan and South Korea than the U.S. troops deployed there and the U.S. defense commitment to those countries is not borne out by the evidence.”

It could even encourage China to bulk up its own nuclear arsenal.

Reif said China’s “doctrine regarding when it might employ nuclear weapons might be described as one of minimum deterrence,” but the country “right now is believed to have no more than 300 total nuclear weapons, which is a small arsenal relative to what the US and Russia possess.”

“But in the event that South Korea and Japan acquire independent nuclear weapons, it’s highly likely that China would revisit its minimum deterrence posture and likely accelerate its ongoing nuclear modernization efforts and consider increasing the overall size of its nuclear arsenal.”

Lewis said “It would be a free-for-all.”

“It would be a giant science experiment that I would not want to see.”

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in St. Clairsville, Ohio June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk

Is Disarmament An Insurrectionist Myth?

Among gun some gun rights advocates, talk of “control” and “regulation” can eventually end up at “conspiracy”.

Some are convinced national political leaders want firearms confiscation.

But why would the U.S. government want to take everyone’s guns?

To begin, according to the government, it doesn’t. Mainstream proponents for gun-control do not call for disarmament — only the most extreme do, but what’s actually being asked for on Capitol Hill is universal background checks with every gun purchase and a ban on assault rifles like the one used two weeks ago in the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, which claimed the lives of 49 people.

Erika Soto Lamb, Chief Communications Officer for Everytown for Gun Safety, the nation’s most prominent gun-control group — largely funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — told The National Memo, “We believe – along with a majority of Americans including gun owners and NRA members – that the Second Amendment goes hand-in-hand with common sense public safety measures that will save lives.”

Why so suspicious?

Ladd Everitt, Director of Communications for the National Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, told The National Memo he deals with the suspicion daily. He attributes the paranoia to the National Rifle Association’s public relations team, particularly the organization’s Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre, who Everitt said does an incredible job of spreading misinformation.

Everitt said disarmament is a myth propagated by the NRA and its core members, who share a foundational belief in insurrectionism. This crowd, Everitt said, is “profoundly anti-government… They want to be in opposition with the government.”

Everitt thinks the insurrectionist myth is largely driven by fear stemming from changes in culture and demographics. The influence of America’s white majority, and that of white males in particular, is waning as other groups achieve more social power and growing in numbers. The shift of political capital, Everitt said, breeds the fear that creates insurrectionism.

It creates plenty of false equivalences, too: Insurrectionists frequently point to Nazi Germany as a historical example of the relationship between disarmament and totalitarianism. The Nazi Weapon Law of 1938 prohibited Jews and other persecuted peoples from gun ownership.

Everitt said the pro-gun rebels believe in the sovereign right, at the individual level, to shoot government officials perceived as tyrannical — “like Timothy McVeigh,” he noted, referring to the domestic terrorist who killed 168 people, including 19 children, in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

McVeigh loved guns and hated the government. He was a Gulf War veteran with an exceptional record of soldiering, especially as a marksman. In 1992 McVeigh tried out for the Special Forces but quit after three days and left the Army. He became a transient, roaming the country, buying and selling weapons at gun shows and vocalizing disdain for government, which he believed was a threat to his rights and guns.

That summer saw the bloody standoff between the FBI and white separatist Randy Weaver, who was charged with selling illegal sawed-off shotguns. Weaver’s wife and son were killed. CNN observes the event became “a rallying point for McVeigh and others immersed in the militia movement.”

Then “Waco” happened. McVeigh travelled to the Texas city to protest the federal siege of a Branch Davidian religious compound where the group’s leader, David Koresh, stood accused of possessing illegal weapons and refused to give himself up, but he left before the April 19 firefight that killed 80 Davidians. Two years later to the day, after stewing for years, McVeigh carried out his murderous bombing-plot against the government.

Twenty years later, in an article for Huffington Post, Executive Director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Josh Horwitz argued the NRA had brought McVeigh’s insurrectionist idea into mainstream conservatism. It was easy for Horwitz to display the connection between McVeigh’s political philosophy and that of the NRA:

Speaking to a student journalist at Waco in 1993, McVeigh said “The government is afraid of the guns people have because they have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people. You give them an inch and they take a mile. I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government. The government is continually growing bigger and more powerful and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control.”

In an April 1995 NRA fundraising letter, sent six days before McVeigh bombed the Federal Building, the Washington Post reports LaPierre wrote, “It doesn’t matter to [the government] that the semi-auto ban gives jack-booted government thugs more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us.”

“Not too long ago,” LaPierre wrote, “it was unthinkable for federal agents wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms to attack law-abiding citizens,” but under “Clinton’s administration, if you have a badge, you have the government’s go-ahead to harass, intimidate, even murder law-abiding citizens.”

Republican Validation

Fear mongering has been the NRA’s PR modus operandi for decades. The organization addresses disarmament on its website, asking “What kind of government cares more about appeasing Islamic terrorists than defending the constitutional rights of its citizens? A government that would disarm us during the age of terror.”

But the NRA wasn’t always this way.

A May 1995 article in the New York Times says the organization was founded in 1871 by a group of former Union officers who wanted to nurture excellent marksmanship in soldiers. This was the NRA’s focus for nearly 100 years, but with the rise of crimes rates in the 1960’s the group shifted its attention to gun violence.

Then, in 1968, the passage of America’s first noteworthy gun-control law compelled the NRA to become “the prototype of the modern single-issue lobby, turning out dedicated supporters at the voting booth to reward or punish candidates based solely on their voting records on gun-control.”

The NRA assigns grades based on whether a politician’s performance is in line with the group’s mission to protect citizens’ unfettered access to firearms. As of December 2015, The Guardian reports, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had a D- and former New York Sen. Hillary Clinton an F. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had an A+.

NRA candidates mimic LaPierre’s insurrectionist warning calls of encroaching despotism. The Washington Post reports that in October, Cruz warned voters that “Obama is coming for our guns.”

Cruz said, “Obama’s aides have alerted the press that if Congress won’t cooperate, Obama will use executive actions to, ‘keep guns out of the hands of criminals and others who shouldn’t have access to them.’ By ‘others who shouldn’t have them,’ Obama means you and me.”

Constitutional Militiamen

The fear of disarmament fostered by Republicans and the NRA seems far-fetched, but the paranoia is not unfounded; in fact it’s quite traditional.

Concern for firearm confiscation was birthed into the American cultural lexicon with the ratification of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1791. Federalists, and their drafting counterparts, the Antifederalists — think (very roughly) Democrats and Republicans, respectively — agreed that private gun ownership was a necessary and most efficient means of resisting the standing army of a tyrannical government, which, like all governments, was possible in the United States.

Antifederalist George Mason, co-author of the amendment, professed that history had shown disarmament to be “the best and most effectual way to enslave” the populace. And Federalist Noah Webster, in one of the original Federalist pamphlets, argued the amendment was unnecessary because, not only was the Constitution designed to prevent tyranny, but disarmament must occur before a standing army could seize control, and such a possibility was negated by the population’s possession of arms. The people simply wouldn’t allow it.

Federalist James Madison, who would become the fourth U.S. president, echoed Webster’s sentiment, writing that the Constitution was air tight, and a standing army would be opposed by “a militia amounting to near half a million citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from amongst themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by government possessing their affections and confidence.”

Obviously, they added the amendment, which states that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The pro-gun crowd, and the Supreme Court, interpret this to mean gun ownership should always be legal because liberty requires it. Some from the gun-control camp will claim the Second Amendment doesn’t actually guarantee the right to gun ownership, that it provides the right to raise a militia with arms provided by Congress; and that all this got twisted around over the years, through interpretations and reinterpretation yielding a voluminous record of writings and rulings.

Today, the U.S. has a standing army, and American citizens have become accustomed to private gun ownership, which perhaps the founders took for granted.

Debunking the Myth

The Constitution remains the backbone of the gun lobby. The National Rifle Association hangs its hat on the Second Amendment. They won’t bend an inch. Any increase in regulation, they say, is the first step down the slippery slope to universal background checks, which they allege would be used to create a national gun registry that would give the Feds an itemized list of every legally owned firearm in America.

On January 22, 2013, in response to a White House proposal for universal background checks, Wayne LaPierre told a crowd in Reno, Nev. that President Obama “wants you to believe that putting the federal government in the middle of every firearm transaction — except those between criminals — will somehow make us safer”:

“That means forcing law-abiding people to fork over excessive fees to exercise their rights. Forcing parents to fill out forms to leave a family heirloom to a loved one — standing in line and filling out a bunch of bureaucratic paperwork, just so a grandfather can give a grandson a Christmas gift. He wants to put every private, personal transaction under the thumb of the federal government, and he wants to keep all those names in a massive federal registry.”

“There are only two reasons for that federal list of gun owners,” LaPierre said, “to tax them or take them.”

LaPierre very ominously paints gun-control like a hellish trip to the DMV that ends in totalitarianism — and perhaps it is, but come on… Either way, FactCheck.org reports LaPierre’s claim that universal background checks would create a “massive federal registry” is simply untrue. In fact, such a registry would be illegal. Here’s why:

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 established the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to keep guns out of the wrong hands and ensure timely transfer of firearms to eligible buyers. The FBI says “more than 100 million such checks have been made in the last decade, leading to more than 700,000 denials” of gun purchases. Most people pass background checks, and the records created by the checks are destroyed by law, which states “The NICS is not to be used to establish a federal firearm registry; information about an inquiry resulting in an allowed transfer is destroyed in accordance with NICS regulations.” The Brady Act bans federal agencies from keeping “any record or portion thereof generated by the [NICS] system,” and bars the “registration of firearms, firearm owners, or firearm transaction” of individuals cleared by the background check. Congress has further added language to annual spending bills that force the FBI to destroy records of gun transfers within 24 hours of validation.

President Obama’s plan to expand criminal background checks would include all sales and transfers of firearms “with limited, common-sense exceptions for cases like certain transfers between family members and temporary transfers for hunting and sporting purposes.” The president’s proposal states no intention of changing current law to generate a federal gun registry; when asked if it would, the White House said no, Obama’s proposed gun laws would not change any regulations, but would simply bring all gun transactions into the existing NICS.

As Ladd Everitt of the National Coalition to Stop Gun Violence pointed out, a handful of states already require background checks, and no registry has been created.

However, on Thursday, Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed into law a bill requiring state police to enroll gun purchasers into an FBI criminal monitoring system after they register their firearms as already mandated, Reuters reports.

Amy Hunter, spokeswoman for the NRA’s institute for legislative action, told Reuters, “As you can imagine, the NRA finds this one of the most extreme bills we’ve ever seen.”

The law gives Hawaiian police the ability to determine whether a gun owner should be allowed to possess a firearm after being arrested for any charge.

Hawaii state Senator Will Espero, a gun owner and Democrat who co-authored the legislation, called the law “common sense legislation that does not hurt anyone.”

“It just means local police will be notified,” he said.

Ige’s office also signed into law two additional firearms bills. One establishes convictions of stalking and sexual assault as offenses that would ban a person from owning a gun, and the other forces gun owners diagnosed with a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder to surrender their weapons.

The NRA will likely sue the state.

One wonders whether the founders considered such provisions when drafting the Second Amendment.

Photo: AR-15 rifles line a shelf in the gun library at the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms National Tracing Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia December 15, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst 

Donald Trump And Brexit Have Xenophobia In Common

On Thursday, Britain will vote on whether to exit the European Union.

Supporters of the secession movement, known as the Leave campaign, or “Brexit,” think a departure from the EU is necessary to protect the nation’s culture, which they see as vulnerable to the social and political influence of immigration. Opponents say Brexit is an intolerant, nativist contradiction of the democratic spirit of the country.

Brexit, as a measure to separate Britain from newcomers waged during the turmoil of the Syrian refugee crisis, is the other side of the coin Donald Trump as flipped in America. Huge segments of both countries’ respective right wings are turning to exclusionary measures in ill-fated efforts to restore some kind of remembered golden age that likely never existed. But that nostalgia isn’t much more than a thin veneer to hide the nativism underneath both campaigns.

Both movements have incited violence. In America, Trump’s trademark, xenophobic policies have stirred a frenzy of nationalism that frequently boils over in attacks on protestors who, in turn, have attacked Trump-supporters. And in Britain, last week’s bloodcurdling, public murder of politician Jo Cox by a white nationalist revealed the darkest virulence of nativist sentiment.

Cox, 41, was a passionate supporter of refugee rights who opposed Brexit. As the New York Times observed, in Cox’s maiden speech to Parliament, delivered last year, she said immigration had “deeply enhanced” her electoral district. “While we celebrate our diversity,” Cox said, “what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

CNN reports the man charged with her killing, Tommy Mair, shot and repeatedly stabbed the Labour MP while saying something along the lines of, “Britain first, keep Britain independent, Britain always comes first, this is for Britain.”

Once arrested, when asked his name in court, Mair said, “My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”

Mair has been linked to the white-power movement in Britain. Police found Nazi regalia and extreme-right literature in his home, and receipts obtained by the Southern Poverty Law Center indicate Mair purchased the neo-Nazi book “Ich Kampfe” in 1999, and in 2013 subscribed to National Vanguard, a publication of the U.S.-based white supremacist organization National Alliance. In the 1980s Mair also subscribed to a pro-apartheid magazine published in South Africa.

In America, it didn’t take a murder to definitively link Trump to white racism. Rather, the association presented itself in the endorsements that Trump rejects but can’t avoid. Trump might not be running on a “white power ticket,” but the fact remains that his dog-whistle-turned-bullhorn campaign has invoked an ethnocentric spirit determined to cast away “the other” that is allegedly polluting society. And Brexit is the same.

As Politico noted, during a March 7 speech in Madison, Miss., Trump claimed immigrants had “shut Christianity down” — though, according to Pew Research Center, seven in 10 Americans identify as Christian. Calling the immigration situation “completely out of control,” the presumptive GOP nominee has vowed to “take our country back,” but, as Forbes observes, Mexican immigration has been declining for years. Pew reports the number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. declined by 1 million from the 6.9 million peak in 2007 to 5.9 million in 2012. Since 2010, when U.S. net migration from Mexico hit zero, more Mexicans have left the country than arrived here.

There is also the notion that illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes but enjoy benefits provided by U.S. citizens. In November, speaking to CNN’s Erin Burnett, Trump said “some probably do,” but “only because the employers are insisting on it. But there’s very little, percentage-wise. There’s very little. Probably 5 percent, 10 percent. It’s a very small amount [who] pay taxes.”

This is untrue. Research from the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy determined illegal immigrants in the U.S. annually contribute about $12 billion to state and local taxes in the form of property, income, sales or excise taxes.

Meg Wiehe, state tax policy director for the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, told U.S. News & World Report, “Regardless of the politically contentious nature of immigration reform, the data show undocumented immigrants greatly contribute to our nation’s economy, not just in labor but also with tax dollars.”

According to the institute’s report, roughly a third of immigrants are homeowners, obligated to pay property taxes, an additional 50 percent are thought to pay income taxes, and 75 percent are believed to contribute to social security — benefits that undocumented people are ineligible to receive.

In the UK, fewer migrants receive benefits than in the United States, but the Vote Leave camp — which supports Brexit — shares the misconception of Trump’s supporters in America: that immigrants exploit the country’s welfare system. But they don’t. The Independent reports HMRC (the UK’s tax authority) numbers show since 2012, EU migrants who arrived in Britain paid £2.5 billion more in income tax and national insurance than they received in tax credits and child benefit.

The Leave campaign is fueled by other baseless claims, such as the threat to employment opportunities posed by an unending wave of immigrants.

Iain Duncan Smith, a former work and pensions secretary, and a Leave campaigner, has said increased EU migration forces British workers to compete for jobs with millions from other countries. And indeed, the number of EU workers in the UK has sharply risen by 700,000 since 2013, but this increase paralleled the addition of one million British people to the workforce. As The Independent notes, in an obvious sense, more people has meant greater demand, which creates jobs and stimulates the economy. The argument to leave the EU is not reinforced by the numbers, which casts doubt on the logic behind Brexit, and reveals the fear at the heart of the movement.

This realization has led at least one Conservative politician, who was backing Brexit, to reverse course. In an interview with The Guardian, Saveeda Warsi wondered what kind of impact leave campaigners were having on the country.

“The vision that the Brexit campaign is presenting is not the vision that me and other Brexiters started off with a year ago,” Warsi said. “The ‘hello world’ approach to Brexit, which is open-minded, visionary, inclusive, has been lost. The moderate message has been lost.”

“And instead we have reverted to a campaign that says: ‘The Turks are coming, the Syrians are coming, the refugees are coming, the Muslims are coming, the terrorists are coming.’”

Prime Minister David Cameron has charged Brexit supporters with inciting intolerance with divisive warning about the perils of immigration. Cameron told the Guardian the Leave campaign has “become very narrowly focused” on immigration.

“I’ve always believed that we have to be able to discuss and to debate immigration,” he said. “But I’ve always believed that this is an issue that needs careful handling.”

“We are talking to a country that has a lot of people who have fled persecution and contribute a massive amount to our country. It does need great care.”

Photo: A Brexit supporter holds a Union Flag at a Vote Leave rally in London, Britain June 4, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall

Call In The Big Gun: George W. Bush Criss-Crosses The Country For GOP Senators

Former President George W. Bush came out of hiding last week to endorse several Republican senators whose reelection campaigns are wobbling ominously in the wake of his party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

The 43rd president recently headlined fundraisers for Senators John McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and will soon repeat the act for Senators Roy Blunt of Missouri, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Bush spokesman Freddy Ford told NBC News, “President Bush believes that it’s critical to keep the Senate in Republican hands. He is actively helping some senators in tight races who are strong leaders and share timeless conservative values.”

Bush, 69, has been mostly absent from the political stage since his presidency ended in 2009. The threat Trump poses to Republican control of the Senate is apparently strong enough to have rousted him from retirement.

It could also be personal: Trump has made a mockery of the Republican Party. He has said Bush lied his way into Iraq in 2003, and held Bush responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Trump also treated Bush’s younger brother, Jeb, with ruthless contempt during the latter’s own presidential bid earlier this cycle.

Both Bushes and their father, President George H.W. Bush, are withholding endorsements and will be skipping their party’s convention in Cleveland next month.

Trump Sees Conspiracies Everywhere

The New York Times reports Trump, on Thursday, said he doesn’t mind Bush’s volunteerism. “I like that he’s helping certain Republicans,” he said, noting that Bush’s brother “had a great chance to beat me,” and failed. But by Saturday night, the Washington Post reported that Trump was spinning in the throes of a conspiracy theory that he believed Jeb Bush was helping to orchestrate. Trump said he is the target of a “revolt,” and named Bush as a member of an “opposition” movement against him being waged by high profile Republicans.

“By the way, Jeb is working on the movement, just so you understand. I love competition like that. I love it,” said Trump. “And the other one should be obvious to you, but we’ll figure that out very easily.”

Whether Trump was referring to George W. Bush as a possible co-conspirator, or someone else, we don’t know. He might have meant Ted Cruz, as the Post observed. Either way, the Times reports friends of Bush say the former president rejects Trump’s campaign rhetoric — particularly his repugnant comments about immigrants and Muslims.

John McCain Is Losing The Hispanic Vote

On Monday, during the “Roundtable Discussion” with Sen. McCain — tickets cost $2,700, the maximum allowed donation from an individual to a campaign — Bush described maintaining the Republican-held Senate as a crucial “check and balance” on the White House, regardless of who becomes the next Commander in Chief.

McCain, who Trump dishonored last year when he said prisoners of war aren’t heroes because they were captured, reluctantly endorsed the billionaire earlier this month, demanding an apology that he never got. Weeks before the endorsement Politico quoted McCain saying, “If Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket, here in Arizona, with over 30 percent of the vote being the Hispanic vote, no doubt that this may be the race of my life.”

Trump has acted like he doesn’t want the Hispanic vote since day one, when he launched his campaign with the now infamous speech in which he called Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers. Other cornerstones of his campaign include constructing an impossible border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and mass-deportation of illegal immigrants. Then, citing a supposed conflict of interest his own policies had created, Trump said that Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whose parents were born in Mexico, was unfit to preside over a lawsuit against Trump University.

In Arizona, Latinos comprise 22 percent of eligible voters. “If you listen or watch Hispanic media in the state and in the country, you will see that it is all anti-Trump,” McCain said. “The Hispanic community is roused and angry in a way that I’ve never seen in 30 years.”

Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino, told Politico, “I would argue that we are living a [Prop.] 187 moment at a national level,” referring to the 1994 ballot measure in California that rendered illegal immigrants ineligible for public benefits, and was eventually ruled unconstitutional. “It’s very, very tough for a senator to get out of that,” she said.

Kica Matos, director of immigrant rights and racial injustice at the Center for Community Change Action, told Politico “The bottom line is that there is a price to be paid for belonging to a party that explicitly endorses a very virulent anti-immigrant agenda.”

“You can’t divorce John McCain from the person who is more likely than not the Republican presidential nominee,” she said.

Bush might be able to help McCain, thought it’s a long shot. As president, Bush was popular among Latinos, primarily for his (unsuccessful) efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. In the 2004 presidential election Bush won 44 percent of the demographic — a Republican record. Former United States Treasurer Rosario Marin told NBC Latino, “The legacy that Bush has left is showing that Latino voters are malleable. A majority vote Democratic, but they are persuadable to vote Republican as well.”

McCain’s Democratic challenger, former congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, has been steadily moving in on the senator’s Republican constituency, while his numbers have dropped eight points since January. McCain also faces the ultra-conservative Kelli Ward, a Tea Partier who was recently endorsed by former Texas congressman Ron Paul, the Libertarian-leaning Republican presidential candidate in 2008 and 2012. Ron Paul’s base doesn’t generally get out to Bush fundraisers very often.

Fed Up In New Hampshire

Last week, Bush campaigned for New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who recently came under fire for towing the line in support of Trump. Ayotte has publicly disapproved of Trump’s offensive statements, and has said her backing the presumptive candidate is not contingent on an official endorsement. Nonetheless, the Associated Press reports her Democratic challenger, Gov. Maggie Hassan, told reporters last month, “He (Trump) is dangerous to the country,” and said she is “appalled that Sen. Ayotte is supporting him.”

Hassan said Ayotte “will need to be held accountable for Donald Trump’s statements and positions.”

Politico reports Ayotte and Hassan are about even in the polls.

New Hampshire is home to a historically independent electorate. A May WBUR poll found the presumptive nominees are tied, but 43 percent of voters think Clinton is better positioned to improve the United States’ standing in the world, compared to Trump’s 31 percent.

Despite Trump’s having won the New Hampshire primary by a wide margin, privately Ayotte has expressed concern about Trump’s potential for having a negative effect on down-ballot candidates. Ayotte’s campaign has criticized her opponent for raising money out of state, and for not doing enough to deal with the heroin epidemic in New Hampshire. They’ve also made combative use of a sex-abuse scandal at the prep school where Hassan’s husband was headmaster.

Holding Wisconsin To Account

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who will host Bush at an upcoming fundraiser, has found himself in a similar predicament in regard to his half-support for Trump. Johnson is battling for reelection against former Sen. Russ Feingold, and seems willing to take all the help he can get.

Feingold is a household name in the region and is leading in the polls. He has also out-raised Johnson by nearly a million dollars. Johnson’s biggest concern is his party affiliation, as Wisconsin, where Clinton is leading Trump by nine points, tends to vote blue in presidential cycles.

In March, Johnson told CNN he was open to campaigning with the presumptive GOP nominee. “Stump with Trump?” he said. “Just because it rhymes: It’d be the Ronald [and] the Donald.”

“From what I’ve heard,” Johnson said, “Trump is running very strong up in the Northwest [portion of Wisconsin] … That should also help me a bit too.”

But this month, Johnson found himself compelled to distance himself ever-so-slightly from the billionaire. A spokesman for Feingold said Johnson should condemn Trump, and he did. Newsmax reports a spokesman for Johnson said Trump should retract comments he made about a Federal judge’s Mexican heritage. “Ron disagrees, just as he has in the past,” Johnson spokesman Brian Reisinger said.

Johnson has expressed disapproval of Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., but backs him nonetheless. But that isn’t an endorsement, the campaign insists, which of course makes no sense at all. It’s very Trumpian — this business of endorsements that aren’t endorsements. And I suppose that’s appropriate; Trump probably thinks it’s genius. His modus operandi dictates: Tell them what they need to hear. Be un-specific. You can always replant the flag in Donald Trump’s America.

Indeed. Though, shockingly, Johnson’s position didn’t satisfy the Feingold people.

Feingold spokesman Michael Tyler brought up Johnson’s earlier declaration to withdraw support from Trump, if the business mogul crosses a major line. “It’s clear from [Johnson’s] response that racist comments from Trump don’t rise to that level for Sen. Johnson,” Tyler said.

The same could be said for the entire GOP establishment, which is stricken with conviction — all hands are tied with belief in the “conservative cause,” apparently, which is why they haven’t flatly denounced Trump, and why they can look past the racism, and bigotry, and now-inescapable association with white supremacy. They could work with Trump, they say.

In regard to his plans with Bush, Johnson told the New York times he has never spoken with the former president, and is looking forward to the event. “All the Bushes are people of integrity,” he said.

Right. Next week, Bush will attend a fundraiser for Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, in St. Louis, and has already been confirmed for an August appearance in Ohio, a key swing state where he’ll be supporting Sen. Rob Portman, who faces a tough reelection campaign against Democrat Jason Kander.

Contentious Kansas

As Politico observed, Missouri Democrats like Kander, a former Secretary of State who served in Afghanistan. The state has been moving to the right, but in April the Kansas City Star reported Clinton holding a narrow, two point lead over Trump.

Blunt told the Times he is pleased Bush is coming to his aid. “He hasn’t given a political speech since he left, so I am interested to hear what he has to say,” Blunt said, adding that, “In Missouri he is still very popular, as he is more and more all over the country.”

This is at least half-true. Although Bush left office with an approval rating of 34 percent, the Times reports a February poll from Quinnipiac University found 47 percent of Americans now view the 43rd president favorably, and a Bloomberg Politics national poll taken last November showed 77 percent of Republicans gave Bush a favorable rating.

Sen. Portman’s campaign manager, Cory Bliss, told CNN, “The enthusiasm behind our campaign grows each day and we are excited to have President George W. Bush join us in Ohio and lend his support this summer.”

Portman served two terms in the Bush administration, accumulating a record the Ohio Democratic Party was quick to call “disastrous.”

Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Daniel van Hooogstraten said, “Senator Portman is hoping that President Bush can distract from the damaging effect of Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, “but all it’s going to do is remind voters of Portman’s decades-long record in Washington of pushing the interests of the wealthy and well-connected he serves at Ohio’s expense.”

Politico reports Strickland is struggling. Portman has out-raised him and is running a tight data and digital campaign while focusing on the Democrat’s gubernatorial jobs record and support for the Iran nuclear deal.

But Democrats are hopeful. A CBS News Battleground Poll released in May showed Clinton beating Trump in Ohio, 44 to 39 percent. Strickland’s campaign is highlighting Portman’s history as a pro-trade politician, which Trump supporters — hell bent on making America great again — will likely loathe.

CBS News Battleground Poll released in May showed Clinton beating Trump in Ohio, 44 to 39 percent. Clinton is also beating Trump nationally. A CBS poll released Thursday gave the former Secretary of State a six point advantage on the billionaire, and sustained her lead when Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson was included. The poll also asked which presumptive nominee voters thought could better handle terrorism and national security: Clinton bested Trump, 50 to 43 percent.

Voters are unhappy with both candidates, primarily because of Clinton’s use of a private email server and Trump’s race-driven slander against the federal judge.

So it makes sense that Bush would be forced out of retirement to pick up the candidate’s slack. Reuters reports Busś’s phone was ringing off the hook with pleas for help from GOP Senate candidates.

Trump, as the presumptive nominee, is falling short on fundraising duties, and is quite obviously not carrying the conservative torch — or any torch at all. Donald Trump has been incredibly lucky, ambling through darkness, leading us all who knows where.

Trump has united many Republicans with Democrats out of fear and anger, and from that anxious unity the 43rd President of the United States has emerged to reluctantly turn on his old Texas charm and rattle the bank.

Republicans control 54 seats of the 100-member Senate.

Dana Perino, who was Bush’s White House press secretary, told Reuters she thinks “this is a one-off, temporary thing that where he can be helpful he will be.”

Kristy Campbell, spokeswoman for Jeb Bush, who is also raising money for congressional candidates, said “The Bush family has a deep love for the party and cares about the future and in light of Trump’s capacity to damage the brand, I think this is part and parcel of doing what they can to preserve the party.”

On Wednesday, in Greensboro, North Carolina, Trump whined about Jeb’s not following through with a campaign trail pledge to back whoever would become the Republican nominee.

“He signed the pledge but he hasn’t endorsed me,” Trump said.

Photo: Former U.S. President George W. Bush (L) joins his brother Republican U.S. presidential candidate Jeb Bush (R) on the campaign trail for the first time in the 2016 campaign at a rally in North Charleston, South Carolina February 15, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Where Does Sanders Stand In His Adopted Party?

All that stands between Hillary Clinton and the Democratic nomination are a few days in Philadelphia.

Washington, D.C. cast the last primary ballots Tuesday, giving Clinton a wide victory over Bernie Sanders. The two met for 90 minutes after the district’s vote became clear, a coming together ostensibly focused on the party platform, and certainly also focused on contrasting Democratic Party unity with the GOP’s slow, public identity crisis.

Clinton clinched the delegates necessary to win the nomination last week.

Sanders isn’t going to the White House next year, except to visit. He’ll be nearby on the Senate floor, bobbing with the millennial campaign trail energy that turned his message into a contentious movement. Democrats have a good chance of retaking the Senate in November; Republicans should be worried — according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, over 75 percent of Democrats say Sanders, the guy who legitimized socialism in America, should have a “major role” in shaping the party’s positions.

And it seems the people will get what they want.

On Tuesday, USA Today reported on a closed-door meeting between Sanders and other Democratic senators, Sanders said he plans to play an active role in shaping a new platform for the party. Sen. Tom Carper said Sanders “mentioned he has every intention of being involved in the platform process and making sure his 2,000 delegates have the opportunity to have their voices heard.”

Sanders, who Carper said was greeted with a “warm welcome, a friendly welcome” and standing ovations, also discussed the necessity for job training and making it easier for people to vote and participate in Democratic Party activities, as well as ensuring that young people feel welcomed by the party.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said the meeting was “terrific.”

“Sen. Sanders took time to talk to us about his experiences. It was really very, very moving,” he said.

Also on Tuesday, during a press conference, Sanders told reporters, “We need a person at the leadership of the DNC who is vigorously supporting and out working to bring people into the political process,” adding that he knows “political parties need money, but it is more important that we have energy.”

Laying out a list of reform plans for the Democratic Party, Sanders discussed electoral reform, calling for the elimination of superdelegates and the need for more open primaries, which allow independent voters to participate.

“We need an electoral process that is worthy of the Democratic Party,” he said.

Sanders’ comments came as polls were closing for the D.C. primary, the final nominating contest of the Democratic presidential campaign. The Vermont senator met with presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton later in the evening.

Throughout the primary, Sanders has stood firmly to Clinton’s left on policies like raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and providing universal health care and tuition-free college.

Although Clinton, who last week was endorsed by President Obama, Vice President Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, had already secured the delegates needed to claim the Democratic nomination, Sanders followed through with his pledge to compete in the D.C. primary.

Spokesman Michael Briggs stills says he expects Sanders “will be a candidate through the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.” Briggs said Sanders will speak via live video Thursday night, “directly to grassroots supporters from Burlington (Vt.) about how the revolution continues.”

“Sanders’ strength in the primaries had a significant impact on shaping the party platform,” said Brad Bannon, Democratic strategist.

In an interview with The National Memo, Bannon said Sanders used his campaign as a leveraging tool to move Hillary Clinton further to the left.

“When Bernie got in the race, I don’t think he thought about winning the nomination,” Bannon said. “I think he got in to use the primary process to make the Democratic Party more progressive.”

Given Sanders’ successful candidacy, the senator from Vermont will likely return to Washington not as a ranking member, but a committee chairman, and the same could be said for Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator and a prominent progressive voice from the sidelines during the primary, especially against Donald Trump.

“Sanders helped jumpstart a generational change in politics,” Bannon said. “He activated a young generation of activists who aren’t going away,” who “will have a significant impact on local, state, and eventually national politics.”

Robert Shrum, who was a senior advisor to Sen. Edward Kennedy during the 1980 presidential election, told The National Memo that an insurgent campaign like Sanders’ will incorporate new voices into the process.

Shrum noted that George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign “brought in Bill and Hillary Clinton, and they stayed around for a long time.”

“These ripples keep going for a long time.”

Photo: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and his wife Jane O’Meara Sanders arrive for a meeting with Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at a hotel in Washington, U.S., June 14, 2016.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Muammar’s Man In New York

Back in 2009, when Donald Trump rented property to Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi, the real estate mogul proved what kind of businessman he really is.

Gadhafi, who came to power 40 years earlier and who would die two years later in the bloody toppling of his tyrannical regime, made his first appearance at the United Nations General Assembly in New York that year, and he had a bit of trouble finding suitable lodging. This was Gadhafi’s first visit to the States. To stay comfortably, the dictator required enough outdoor space to pitch a large, North African-style tent where he could slip into his usual dictatorial groove, which might involve raping his female body guards, but which would definitely include killing at least one sacrificial lamb.

The despot, who stood accused of breaking an encyclopedia of international laws, such as sponsoring terrorism and abusing human rights, was turned away from New York City’s Central Park as well as the city of Englewood, New Jersey, before his team was able to procure space and at Trump’s 213-acre estate in the Westchester town of Bedford, New York; because never mind the war crimes — according to The Washington Post, Gadhafi had recently begun privatizing Libyan industries, and a number of American businesses were trying to capitalize on the oil-rich nation. By the time Gadhafi started knocking on doors in and around New York, BuzzFeed News reports Trump had already taken Libya’s ambassador golfing in Florida.

This is all relevant now because Trump is running for president, and because the life-sized Chucky doll brought it up Sunday morning during an interview with John Dickerson on CBS’s Face The Nation.

When Dickerson questioned Trump about U.S.-Libya policy, Trump mentioned the rental agreement, noting that Gadhafi paid him a “fortune,” but “never got to stay there. And it became sort of a big joke.”

And this is true, only the joke was on Trump, who came up $50 thousand short.

But before going any further, it’s important to remember that Gadhafi sponsored the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which was shot down over Lockerbie, Scotland, while in flight from London to New York, killing 270 people including 189 Americans.

The perpetrator, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was released from prison and warmly welcomed home by Gadhafi in Libya one month before the dictator would travel to New York. This was one reason Gadhafi and his tent were largely unwelcome in America, where he was generally reviled for decades of embracing all things anti-Western, such as the Soviet Union, Fidel Castro and the Japanese Red Army.

His own people hated him, too. Gadhafi was known for stomping out dissidents. In 2011, opposition forces mounted enough support to lead a full-fledged revolt. Civil war ensued, and Gadhafi displayed his brutality: During the Battle of Misrata, The Guardian reports Gadhafi’s senior generals were ordered to bombard and starve the city’s population. NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said it was “unfortunately still the case that pro-Gadhafi forces continue to show shocking determination to harm the Libyan people.”

Gadhafi’s bloodthirstiness was not surprising. Two years earlier, when the oppressor spoke before the UN General Assembly — when he rented Trump’s backyard — Gadhafi disgraced what was meant to be a peaceful celebration aimed at global unity, shouting “Terrorism!” and tearing copies of the UN charter and the UN rule book during a 40-minute anti-Western diatribe. Meanwhile, at New York’s First Avenue, The Guardian reports relatives of the victims of Flight 103 held signs that read “Murderer.”

Gadhafi hadn’t slept well the night before. Despite Trump’s open arms, the City of Bedford put its foot down and sent the dictator packing.

Everything was all set before he arrived: the tent was pitched, the rugs were placed, the walls were lined with ornamental fabrics and the sacrificial lamb was ready to be killed — but it didn’t happen; the town said no, the circus had to go.

Gadhafi’s suburban occupancy brought a media swarm that tipped off citizenry, who simply wouldn’t have it. The locals were outraged. Residents included Martha Stewart, Ralph Lauren, George Soros and Richard Gere. Fast acting city officials found a legal reason to ban Gadhafi. Attorney Joel Sachs told The Guardian “There is no such thing as diplomatic immunity when it comes to complying with local laws and ordinances.”

Sachs said he believed the tent was in violation of “several codes and laws of the town of Bedford,” and, when construction workers on site demonstrated an inability to understand English, the property’s caretaker was served an order to stop work.

In a classic case of Donald Trump back-peddling, he publicly denied knowledge of the renter’s identity. The Trump Organization told The Guardian part of the property “was leased on a short-term basis to Middle Eastern partners, who may or may not have a relationship to Mr. Gaddafi. We are looking into the matter.”

Though, privately, before the dictator was banished, BuzzFeed News reports Trump had contacted Libya’s U.S. public relations agency, hoping for a way to “quiet it down,” but focusing on business.

Chris Herbert, who worked for Brown Lloyd James — the PR firm coordinating Gadhafi’s trip, described by Herbert as “less PR, more shadow embassy” — remembers Trump saying “Let’s not worry about the tent, I’m interested in having a meeting with Gadhafi.”

Trump wanted to “explore business ventures” concerning “the Mediterranean waterfront and construction.”

This is not surprising.

Trump began courting Gadhafi in 2008 or 2009, several years into the despot’s effort to improve his relationship with the West. He had hired U.S. lobbyists and public relations firms and abandoned Libya’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Gadhafi also worked with U.S. intelligence in the war against al-Quaeda. He opened Libyan industries to international investors. The U.S. gradually lifted sanctions and in 2006 took Libya off its list of state sponsors of terrorism. The investors came running, and so did American companies. The Washington Post reports Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Boeing, Caterpillar and Ponzi scheme financier Bernie Madoff were among the Libyan rush, so it makes sense that Trump would be too. But Trump never got a chance to meet with Gadhafi, who only paid our Republican presidential candidate $150,000 of the $200,000 tab.

Nonetheless, Trump apparently didn’t feel too bad about getting burned. Last summer, on CNN’s “State of the Untion” Trump said he believes the world would be “100 percent” better if ruthless dictators like Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi were still in power.

Hussein lost power and was eventually executed following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Gadhafi was killed in 2011 when NATO intervened in that country’s civil war.

“I mean, look at Libya. Look at Iraq. Iraq used to be no terrorists,” Trump said. “He (Hussein) would kill the terrorists immediately, which is like now it’s the Harvard of terrorism.”

“If you look at Iraq from years ago, I’m not saying he was a nice guy, he was a horrible guy, but it was a lot better than it is right now. Right now, Iraq is a training ground for terrorists. Right now Libya, nobody even knows Libya, frankly there is no Iraq and there is no Libya. It’s all broken up. They have no control. Nobody knows what’s going on.”


Photo: Muammar Qaddafi, the Libyan chief of state, attends the 12th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb. 2, 2009. Qaddafi was elected chairman of the organization. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt/Released

The IRS Isn’t Persecuting Tea Party Groups — It’s Regulating ‘Dark Money’

On Tuesday, a list of 426 groups singled out for extra scrutiny when applying for tax-exempt status was made publicly available. These organizations, many associated with the “Tea Party” movement, comprise the “victims” in the Great IRS Scandal of 2013, referring to outrage over intrusive questioning of pending groups and delayed approvals of applications and tax-exempt statuses seemingly based on extreme-right wing political views.

The scandal led to a lawsuit from the NorCal Tea Party Patriots, which for three years battled with the IRS to get the list of targeted groups released. The perceived misconduct also resulted in national scrutiny of the Obama administration — which was accused of coordinating the effort — and the IRS, as well as calls for the impeachment of the agency’s Director of the Exempt Organization’s unit, Lois Lerner, who eventually resigned in the midst of the controversy.

There are several elephants in this room that GOP officials ignore in their condemnations of the IRS: Mainly, that progressive and liberal groups were also targeted for extra scrutiny in 2013. And also that the Tea Party groups that received extra scrutiny had names involving buzzwords such as “Tea Party,” “liberty,” “patriot,” and “9/12” — referring to the 9/12 movement started by conservative advocate Glenn Beck — thus tagging them with an obvious political affiliation that rightly placed them under the microscope.

Why extra scrutiny for political activity? Easy: 501(c)(4) groups — like The National Rifle Association, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club — may engage in political activities, as long as these activities do not constitute a group’s primary purpose. What does “primary” mean? The IRS hasn’t said. But because these 501(c)(4)s are supposed to be primarily focused on “social welfare,” they are legally allowed to keep their donors secret. They are the “dark money” groups you hear so much about: Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, or the liberal Patriot Majority USA.

These groups cannot contribute to active political campaigns, but they can lobby elected officials. However, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, it’s easy for 501(c)(4)’s to spend most if not all of their money on elections, and they can do so without blatantly breaking the rules by following a simple formula:

Millions of dollars in anonymous contributions are divided into separate contributions to different organizations within a political network. These groups then distribute the bulk of their proceeds to other organizations in their network, which then donate to another, not directly connected nonprofit with a straightforward social welfare function but is allied politically with the network.

Each donation is made in the name of the “social welfare” cause the group named when applying for tax-exemption status, thus counterbalancing political expenditures. Each donating group counts its donation as income, which it spends on permitted political projects. Donations to other groups comprise the 51 percent of operations that should not be allocated to direct political activity, to which each organization then devotes the remaining 49 percent of its budget.

The organizations won’t have to report the transfers until well after election time, allowing many to slip through the cracks undetected.

Dark Money Alchemy

Some groups protect themselves from regulation by spending on “educational” political advertisements, which often go unreported to the Federal Elections Commission, thus requiring an IRS audit to detect them, and the IRS only audits seven of every 1,000 annual nonprofit tax returns each year.

Political advertising has exploded in 2016, CRP reports. Senate races especially have seen “historic amounts of dark money spending.”

Almost 60 percent of money spent by outside organizations in Senate races has come from dark money groups, and while this is comparable to 2014, the amount is much higher than that of 2012. While the number of ads run in 2016 is similar to that in 2012, a Wesleyan Media Project report from that year found no 501(c) to have run over 800 ad spots by this point in the 2012 Senate race, while this year 10 nonprofits have purchased more spots and five have bought thousands.

In Pennsylvania, for example, a state that saw a highly contested Democratic Senate primary preceding what will likely be a close general election, the amount of ads purchased doubles that of any other state, and organizations that don’t disclose their donors paid for much of it.

Dark money organizations are responsible for 28,551 ads in Senate races to date. According to Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, Senate candidates, who don’t enjoy the same free media benefits as presidential candidates, are “leaning more than ever on groups that can accept unlimited anonymous contributions.”

Because some of these groups are running issue ads that don’t promote or denounce candidates, they haven’t technically been required to report their spending to the FEC. For instance, One Nation — which is managed by the same people who run Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS — has run over 4,000 ads in seven states, and Concerned Veterans for America, which has ties to the Koch brothers, has run over 1,500, all of which have gone unreported.

It’s easy to see why federal oversight of “dark money” groups is so necessary.

In May, the New York Times ran an op-ed by attorneys Kathleen M. Donovan-Maher and Steven L. Groopman that addressed a rule proposed by the SEC which would require corporations to report the recipients and amounts of their political donations. The proposal has been applauded by a bipartisan group of former SEC commissioners, state treasurers and law professors who think the status quo jeopardizes the democratic process.

Those against the change say they are exercising their First amendment right to free speech, the exact line of thought that gave us Citizens United — the “money is speech” decision that 77 percent of Americans want to see overturned.

According to a November 2015 report from Pew Research Center, 64 percent of Americans say “the high cost of running a presidential campaign discourages many good candidates from running,” and the same amount held this view almost 30 years ago in 1988.

“Most Americans,” the report reads, “including majorities in both parties, believe that new laws would be effective in reducing the role of money in politics.”

Photo: A security camera hangs near a corner of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington May 27, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Graphic: Center for Responsive Politics

What To Expect From California

On Tuesday, Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton will square off in eight states for the last big primary day of the election cycle.

In California, the state that recently set the stage for highly-publicized violence from the anti-Trump protestors, the latest polls show the Vermont senator and the former Secretary of State nearly neck-and-neck. A CBS News poll released Sunday found Clinton ahead of Sanders by just two points, at 49 to 47 percent, respectively, and the final pre-election Field poll found 45 percent supporting Clinton and 43 percent backing Sanders.

Although Clinton has a significant delegate lead over Sanders, which she is likely to maintain unless the Vermont senator is able to convince hundreds of superdelegates who have declared their preference for Clinton to back him instead, Sanders has resolved to keep fighting, arguing that a big California victory could turn tides in his favor. Clinton is well aware of how bad a California loss would look for her campaign, as she still needs Democrats to believe she’s the right person to take on Donald Trump in November.

Immigration is a critical factor in California. The Hill reports 43 percent of voters say it is “very important,” and 39 percent say “somewhat important.” The Golden State’s large Latino population, which surpassed that of the state’s non-Hispanic whites in 2014, will be a decisive demographic in the state. Keeping with a national trend, young Latinos prefer Sanders to Clinton, who has been running a 30-second ad in Spanish in the state.

“I am a diehard Clinton supporter. I have wanted her to win since 2008,” said Kathryn Ramírez, a teacher and school board member, in and interview with The Hill. Ramírez, whose entire family supports Clinton, said the former Secretary of State is “very qualified and she really cares about moving us forward.”

Recent high school graduate Tomás Mier will vote for the first time on Tuesday. Mier, the son of Mexican immigrants, told The Hill he is “definitely a Sanders supporter.”

“I like his position on immigration. He has a plan for immigration reform,” said Mier. “And he’s talking about raising the minimum wage. I feel like he’s rooting for us (young people). I don’t have any experience voting before, but I feel that this election has been like no other election before. We are very enthusiastic about voting.”

Despite his preference for Sanders, Miers is not among the “Bernie or Bust” faction of the Vermont senators’ support. If Clinton gets the nomination, Miers says he will back her.

“This is about making sure that Donald Trump doesn’t become president,” he said. “We can’t have someone like him. I fear that my family will be separated if he becomes president.”

Professor of Mexican American Studies at San Jose State University Phil Tabera is still undecided.

“I’m leaning toward Sanders because I sympathize with what he’s trying to do,” Tabera said, “but I’m not sure it would work, especially if there is a Republican House and Senate. I do understand things have to change, but Hillary Clinton knows the system. I’m real torn between the two.”

Clinton, who this weekend won the Virgin Islands caucuses and the Puerto Rico primary, is reportedly less than 30 delegates shy of a majority and is expected to win most of New Jersey’s 142 delegates on Tuesday.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Clinton said she is very proud of her California campaign, and that she believes by Tuesday she “will have decisively won the popular vote” and “will have decisively won the pledged delegate majority.”

Based on the delegate math, campaign war chest, and her popular vote advantage, Clinton’s allies assert the race for the Democratic nomination is over. But Sanders insists he will fight until July’s Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

“It is extremely unlikely that Secretary Clinton will have the requisite number of pledged delegates to claim victory on Tuesday night,” Sanders said at a conference Saturday in L.A.’s Little Tokyo, where he voiced disdain for the media’s counting of superdelegates in their tallies.

“At the end of the nominating process, no candidate will have enough pledged delegates to call the campaign a victory. That will be dependent upon superdelegates. In other words, the Democratic National Convention will be a contested convention.”

The Field poll found much greater enthusiasm for Sanders than for Clinton in California. Nearly two in three voters backing Sanders, 65 percent, say they are enthusiastic in their support of his candidacy; less than half of Clinton supporters feel the same way. And while both Democrats are viewed favorably by the probable Democratic primary electorate, 76 percent have a favorable opinion of Sanders, compared to 64 percent for Clinton.

Field reports this as a “relatively new development and is due to a decline in the proportion of likely Democratic primary voters who have a favorable opinion of Clinton over the past four months.”

Advisors told CNN that while Sanders fully intends to fight until the Democratic convention, he has also not forgotten his duty to help keep Donald Trump out of the White House. At this point though, they said, the Vermont senator hasn’t thought past the convention.

The Clinton and Trump campaigns are already aiming for each other’s Achilles heels, with Trump dredging up scandals from the 1990s and Clinton targeting Trump’s racism, instability, and business failures. The numbers reported by The Hill show in California, 33 percent of voters say being reminded of the 1990s and the Clinton White House makes them feel more negative than positive about Hillary Clinton’s campaign, while 52 percent reported that hearing about Trump’s past business dealing gives them a negative impression of the presumptive GOP nominee.

Clinton leads Trump by a wide margin among California voters in a hypothetical November election, 48 to 33 percent. The prospect of casting ballots against their candidate’s opponent is fueling many voters’ drive to the polls, with 42 percent of Sanders’ supporters looking forward to voting against Clinton and 41 percent of those backing Clinton excited to vote against Sanders.

Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes a picture with supporters during a campaign stop in Fresno, California, United States June 4, 2016.   REUTERS/Mike Blake

Why Trump’s Success With Vets In Polls Is Misleading

Donald Trump is polling better than Hillary Clinton among voters who have served in the military, according to a survey conducted between May 13-24 by Morning Consult. Sixty-eight percent of respondents — like most voters, generally speaking — say the country is on the wrong track.

Neither candidate is exceptionally popular with veterans, but 2016 has been a year for politicizing armed service — perhaps driven by Donald Trump’s militarism, or perhaps by the swelling ranks of veterans in the United States: There were 22 million veterans in the U.S. in 2014, according to the Census Bureau, and millions more eligible voters currently serving in the military.

Campaign trail promises have left their mark on this group. It’s been over two years since the V.A. scandal broke, and vets still face long waits for government care — with some never getting the help they deserve and need — while veteran homelessness and suicide rates rise, the war against ISIS escalates, and a large population of servicemen and women have returned home to life in a jobless purgatory.

Despite the unique set of issues that affect this group, veterans’ support for political candidates seems largely divided along party lines.

When asked about a two-way race between the presumptive GOP nominee and Hillary Clinton, 51 percent of veterans said they planned on voting for Trump, 36 percent said the former Secretary of State. Although Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical Democratic primary, he did better than her when pinned against Trump.

The billionaire also beat the former First Lady in a survey from Military Times, which determined that among active-duty troops, reservists and National Guardsmen, Trump wins 54 percent to 25 percent.

Dan Caldwell, vice president for Concerned Veterans for America, a conservative group linked to the Koch brothers, told Stars and Stripes that veterans “are frustrated just like a lot of other people.”

Though his group has not endorsed the presumptive GOP nominee, Caldwell said that many voters are looking for a new kind of candidate, and that Trump and Sanders are probably polling better than Clinton among veterans because they reflect a drastic shift from the Obama administration, which he said mismanaged the Department of Defense while grappling with the V.A. scandal.

Trump’s particular popularity with veterans is, historically speaking, lower than it should be. Compared to polls of previous GOP presidential candidates in the summer months preceding an election, the Morning Consult survey shows that Trump’s candidacy has split the usual Republican advantage in half.

According to Gallup, in August 2008, Sen. John McCain led then-Sen. Barack Obama by over twenty points, 56 percent to 34 percent, among veteran voters, and in 2012 former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney also beat Obama by 22 percent. 

Jon Soltz, who served as an Army officer before leading the group VoteVets, told Stars and Stripes it’s “absolutely good news.”

“I don’t think there has been a time in modern history where a GOP candidate had such a gap in support among veterans,” he said.

Trump’s shortfall could be due to his complete inability to discuss military issues in any sort of coherent way, but it could also be his shameless politicization of the group, which has led to an outcry from veterans outraged by his use of their service as a campaign prop.

In an email to The National Memo, Rick Hegdahl, a veteran of the Navy and director of outreach for VoteVets, said, “Veterans are always used to politicians talking about us,” but “Donald Trump has taken things to a new low.”

Hegdahl cited Trump’s duplicitous handling of his own pro-troop fundraising efforts: As reported by the Washington Post in January, Trump claimed to have raised $6 million for veterans’ groups when he had only raised $4.5 million. Trump also claimed to have given $1 million of his own money, but didn’t actually donate any of it until pressed by various media outlets in late May.

“His event was a complete sham,” said Hegdahl. “[Trump] hid behind us because he didn’t want to face Megyn Kelly, and in the process tried to pretend he raised money that he hadn’t raised. This after he smeared P.O.W.’s and tried to get disabled veterans kicked out from in front of Trump Tower.”

Hegdahl thinks Trump’s brash dialogue has dangerously influenced this election, and the platforms of other Republican politicians, and he said veterans in his network have expressed similar sentiments about the “complete horror at what they’ve heard out of most of the GOP campaigns, which have been built on anti-Islam, anti-immigrant, saber rattling.”

“We haven’t seen positions this extreme in a long, long time,” he said.

When asked what they’d like to hear from the candidates, Hegdahl said “first and foremost, a foreign policy that doesn’t put our troops in harm’s way, unless as a last resort.”

“Second, support for policies that strengthen our relationships around the world, and help our military form the relationships of trust that they need, especially with Muslims, to effectively fight against extremism.”

And “strengthening the V.A. — not privatizing it, as many Republicans suggested they would do, and as Donald Trump has hinted at.”

“Privatization of the V.A. is the single biggest concern from veterans that we hear about,” he added.

Concerned Veterans for America didn’t respond to a similar request for comment.

Polls aren’t the only way to gauge support, if this campaign finance-obsessed election has taught us anything: Here again, Trump falls behind, drastically out-fundraised by Sanders and Clinton.

According to OpenSecrets.org, a project of the nonpartisan nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics dedicated to tracking money in politics, people employed by the military or the U.S. Department of Defense and individuals who identified as retired service members have contributed $374,600 to the Sanders campaign and $247,649 to the Clinton campaign. As of Friday, Trump had only received $15,502.

Billionare Adelson Makes Pro-Trump PAC

The Wall Street Journal reports Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino mogul who spent over $100 million during the 2012 election, plans to establish a super PAC in support of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Funds raised by the super PAC would also be used to back Republicans in important congressional races.

Adelson has been an omnipresent force in Republican politics for decades. In 2012, he bankrolled Newt Gingrich’s failed campaign for the Republican nomination long after Gingrich had a viable change of winning. In 2016, he supported numerous candidates before settling on Trump. Adelson is also known for buying newspapers for use as political organs, both in the United States and Israel, including in January a controversial takeover of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

According to PoliticoAdelson’s advisors have been in discussion with GOP bigwigs including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; former Rand Paul campaign manager Chip Englander; Josh Holmes, who served as chief of staff for Sen. Mitch McConnell; and former executive directors of the Republican Governors Association (a crucial fundraising organ for the party) Nick Ayers and Phil Cox.

The emergence of Adelson’s PAC couldn’t be more timely — the GOP’s heaviest donors have voiced concern about giving to the two pro-Trump super PACs that already exist. Adelson, whose net worth is reported to exceed $25 billion and who Forbes ranks as the 22nd richest person in the world, could provide the name and pseudo-face necessary to get high-dollar Republicans to open their wallets for a candidacy many are reluctant to support.

Creation of the PAC should ease the qualms of Gov. Christie, who has argued for the operational benefits of running a centralized fundraising operation as opposed to a scattered array of many smaller ones. Since relinquishing his own presidential campaign, Christie, who has come forth as an ardent supporter of Trump and is leading the presumptive nominee’s White House transition team, has been a strategically key figure for the conceptual PAC, coordinating discussions between donors and consultants.

Christie also received the ticket revenue, to pay off campaign debts, from a Trump event thrown in his honor in New Jersey. Though Trump rarely sells tickets to his speeches, Christie’s loyalty and advice — and his use as an Oreo punchline — were worth it.

Adelson plans to form an all-star team of top-tier political strategists to instill a sense of confidence in the Trump campaign that hasn’t been felt by the party’s elite.

The New York Times reports Adelson, who withheld support during most of the nominating process, came out in support of Trump at a gala dinner for the World Values Network, a Jewish organization, in early May.

“Yes, I’m a Republican, he’s a Republican. He’s our nominee,” Adelson said. “Whoever the nominee would turn out to be, any one of the 17 – he was one of the 17. He won fair and square.”

The Times reports that during a meeting with Trump the following week, Adelson pledged at least $100 million in support of Trump’s campaign.

Later, in an op-ed penned for the Washington Post, Adelson wrote: “I am endorsing Trump’s bid for president and strongly encourage my fellow Republicans — especially our Republican elected officials, party loyalists and operatives, and those who provide important financial backing — to do the same.”

The Associated Press reports Adelson also wrote an email to 50 Jewish Republican leaders asking for their support on behalf of Trump. Adelson wrote that a meeting with Trump left him “specifically convinced [Trump] will be a tremendous president when it comes to the safety and security of Israel.”

Trump’s schismatic language, such as comments about of banning Muslim immigrants, irked many members of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which includes many top GOP donors who backed other candidates during the primaries.

“Like many of you,” Adelson wrote, “I do not agree with him on every issue. However, I will not sit idly by and let Hillary Clinton become the next president. The consequences to our country, and Israel, are far too great to take that risk.”

In his endorsement, Adelson referenced the “tooth and nail” fight Republicans have waged against the Obama administration for nearly a decade. “We waged battles over debt, government spending, Obamacare and the Iran nuclear deal,” he wrote, noting the “paramount importance” of Obama having lifted sanctions on Iran.

“The alternative to Trump being sworn in as the nation’s 45th president is frightening.”

“If Republicans do not come together in support of Trump, Obama will essentially be granted something the Constitution does not allow – a third term in the name of Hillary Clinton.”

Although Clinton’s support for Israel has proven steadfast over the years, apparently her stated allegiance to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu isn’t enough to ease Adelson’s concerns that a Clinton presidency would be “Obama Part III,” which — as is reflected in Adelson’s Post editorial — extends beyond U.S. relations with Israel.

The once-solid alliance between Israel and the United States has indeed faltered under the Obama administration: Obama and Netanyahu aren’t on friendly terms, to say the least, and Obama’s less-that-total support for Israel in that country’s century old conflict with neighboring Palestine led to charges of abandonment last year from Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to Washington.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney made similar comments during his run for the presidency in 2012, backed with $100 million of Adelson’s money.

On Tuesday The Jerusalem Post reported senior Israeli government officials, worried Obama will try to pass a UN Security Council resolution during his final days in office, have actually reached out to advisors of Clinton and Trump to begin lobbying against U.S. involvement in an international peace effort.

Trump has voiced neutrality on the issue. He claims his experience as a businessman proves his qualification to broker a peace deal between the two nations.

During an interview with The Associated Press in December, Trump said, “A lot will have to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal — whether or not Israel’s willing to sacrifice certain things. They may not be, and I understand that, and I’m OK with that. But then you’re just not going to have a deal.”

In March, Clinton denounced Trump’s unbiased approach during a speech given to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

“America can’t ever be neutral when it comes to Israel’s security or survival,” Clinton said. “We can’t be neutral when rockets rain down on residential neighborhoods, when civilians are stabbed in the street, when suicide bombers target the innocent. Some thing’s aren’t negotiable.”

On this issue, high-ranking GOP officials, and many in the Republican Jewish Coalition, agree with the former Secretary of State. Speaking to Jerusalem Post, a senior Republican aide said, “When leadership talks, and they’re discussing whether or not to endorse [Trump], one of the first things they go back to is: ‘I’m not neutral when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians.”

Sheldon Adelson wants to send Trump on a trip to Israel before the GOP convention, which begins July 18.

Photo: Gambling giant Las Vegas Sands Corp’s Chief Executive Sheldon Adelson speaks during an inteview with Reuters in Macau, China, December 18, 2015. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Could Gary Johnson And Bill Kristol Keep Trump Out Of The White House?

Donald Trump might have some trouble on his hands.

On Sunday, the Libertarian Party chose its presidential nominee, former Republican Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson. Also on Sunday, Bill Kristol — the neoconservative editor of The Weekly Standard and the most vocal proponent of the #NeverTrump movement — posted the following tweet: “Just a heads up over this holiday weekend: There will be an independent candidate–an impressive one, with a strong team and a real chance.”

Good to know, even if the tweet rings like a hollow threat: For months Kristol has been organizing a conspiracy against Trump, seeking out candidates to run against him, ostensibly to protect the integrity of the conservative movement and to give #NeverTrump conservatives a reason to vote for down-ballot races. Kristol wants Trump to pay for defying the conservative order, even if it means losing the White House. No third-party candidate has ever won the presidency.

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said, “A third party run by any candidate is a complete disaster.”

Lewdanowski said such a run would be “handing the White House over to the Democrats,” which in turn would mean “four or five potential U.S. Supreme Court Justices that Hillary Clinton would have a chance to appoint, if she does that you can say goodbye to the 2nd Amendment amongst other things; you can say goodbye to your rights.”

Kristol, apparently, is content in losing this battle for the White House, though his ranks are dwindling. After all, the #NeverTrump movement has dissipated from the once thundering echo chamber of condemnations that included denouncements from multiple Bushes and nearly every elected Republican politician on the national stage. Even one time rising star Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who called Trump a dangerous con man, has gotten behind the billionaire-candidate.

Either way, Kristol isn’t backing down. When contacted for comment Monday morning, Kristol told CNN there are still “lots of I’s to dot and T’s to cross.”

Earlier in May, the Washington Post reported that Kristol had already begun strategizing with a team of appalled Republicans — including former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, talk-radio host Erick Erickson, and strategists Mike Murphy, Stuart Stevens and Rick Wilson — to keep Trump out of the White House. Kristol, Romney & co. have been commissioning private polling and courting possible candidates while organizing funding to launch a desperate #NeverTrump candidacy.

Potential third-party contenders include freshman Sen. Ben Sasse, of Nebraska, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and billionaire businessman and “Shark Tank” reality television show host Mark Cuban.

The three Republicans don’t want Trump, but they also say they don’t want the job.

Cuban told the Post he doesn’t see it happening. “[Trump] could come after me all he wanted, and he knows I would put him in his place,” said Cuban. “All that said, again, I don’t see it happening. There isn’t enough time.”

Kasich’s advisors said the governor will not run as an independent. His chief strategist, John Weaver, said the Never Trump’ers “had plenty of time and opportunity to influence the [GOP] nomination battle in a constructive way, and they didn’t for whatever reason. The idea of running someone as a third party, particularly the way they’re going about it, is not going to be effective and is not practical.”

Sasse, 44, is popular among conservative leadership and is considered to have potential for being a national candidate in the future — but he also said no to the prospective run, despite having previously voiced desire for “some third candidate — a conservative option, a Constitutionalist.”

Other ruled-out prospects include former Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and retired Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis. Consideration has also been given to former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and retired Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.

McChrystal told the Post he isn’t “entertaining any candidacy,” and Mattis rejected the offer after meeting with Kristol and his team in the middle of April. Kristol then turned to Romney for help.

Romney, who unsuccessfully ran against President Obama in 2012, met with Kristol at the beginning of May to strategize.

Kristol told CNN he isn’t actively trying to get Romney to run, but did suggest the former Massachusetts governor should consider it. Romney has previously stated that he wasn’t interested in an independent bid, though at the beginning of 2015 he did ponder a third presidential run before removing his name as a possible contender for the GOP nomination. A vocal Never Trump’er, in March Romney called the presumptive nominee a “phony” and a “fraud” who is “playing the American public for suckers.”

Romney might be right, but would throwing another hat into the ring help conservatives?

Pat Buchanan, who ran for president in 2000 on the Reform Party ticket, doesn’t think so. Buchanan told the Washington Post that Kristol, Romney, and the rest are “mice trying to bell the cat — only they can’t get one mouse to go out and do it.”

Buchanan offered a bleak prediction for the future of any “mouse” with the guts to take that chance: “The career of the individual would come to an end, and he would have a difficult spot in history for being responsible for putting Hillary Clinton in the White House.”

Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson would apparently be happy to play that role, and recent polling indicates he may just get the part.

FiveThirtyEight reports a Morning Consult survey published last week showed Clinton getting 38 percent of the vote, Trump 35 percent and Johnson 10, with 17 percent undecided; a Fox News poll conducted between May 14-17 put Trump ahead of Clinton, 42 to 39 percent, with Johnson again at 10 percent; and in a Monmouth University survey conducted during mid-March, Clinton got 42 percent, Trump 34 percent and Johnson 11 percent.

Considering Johnson’s Republican history and the right-wing tendencies of the Libertarian Party at large, if Johnson siphons votes from anyone, it will be from Trump. However, Johnson’s running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, thinks the Libertarian ticket could succeed in this race on its own terms.

“Someone doesn’t have to be disaffected with Ms. Clinton to think that we have a good story,” Weld told CNN. “One doesn’t have to be Never Trump to see that we were two of the most fiscally conservative governors in the United States.”

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Blame Trump For The GOP’s LGBT Vote Switch

Last week, seven House Republicans switched their votes after the allotted voting time to kill an amendment that would have prevented businesses contracted by the Federal government from discriminating against LGBT employees, effectively bringing furor to the House floor

The votes were changed in secret: What was supposed to be a two minute process took more like eight minutes, after House Speaker Paul Ryan failed to gavel voting to a close when he was supposed to. By then, GOP leaders managed to coerce just enough of their caucus to snuff a provision bound for adoption. The final tally was 212–213. Democrats chanted “SHAME!” as Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) took to the floor to condemn the action.

For a week Democrats have lambasted the Republican move, alleging trickery, treachery, bigotry, and cowardice and assuring constituents that the fight for LGBT rights will continue.

Ryan’s clever delay tactic was a legal action, but it was low, even for the House of Representatives — a classic case of “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

It was no surprise to learn, afterwards, that the bombastic presence of Donald Trump on the political scene may have sparked a latent resurgence of conservative confidence; that Donald’s constant boundary-pushing in the name of “winning” — which, surely, ought to be the ultimate goal of our politics, right? — is fueling what would otherwise be seen as an awfully old-fashioned, hardline swing to the right.

Last Thursday, after the vote, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) told Roll Call the amendment “wouldn’t have failed without the narrative of hatred Trump has created.”

“I’m sure Donald Trump was very proud of House Republicans today,” Israel said, adding that Trump has been “vilifying from day one.”

“When you have a Republican Party that is built on the premise of vilification, hatred and marginalization, nobody should be surprised by what happened on the floor.”

“You know, you reap what you sow.”

Although we don’t know who switched their votes — because Speaker Ryan didn’t require them to record the changes — Democratic leadership is fairly certain the seven culprits are Reps. Darrell Issa, Jeff Denham, David Valadao, and Mimi Walters of California, Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, Iowa Rep. David Young and Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine — none of whom have admitted guilt, so to speak, though, as Roll Call reported, Valadao, Young, and Poliquin are facing competitive re-elections.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) — who not only voted for the amendment, but approached last Thursday’s vote thinking his Party would following the course of the country, which, as he put it, “clearly is evolving, socially, on issues like this” — said it was obvious some Republicans switched to shield members who wanted to avoid voting for the LGBT amendment, and speculated such protection was intended to help those worrying about future Republican challengers.

Dent said “Members are more worried about their primaries than general elections” — meaning some will be inclined to up the conservative ante, which could require bending rules to get things done, as was evidenced last Thursday.

Throughout his campaign, Trump has stretched the rules on almost every informal institution in modern political life: decorum, process, basic manners and human decency, and, not least, pandering. Yes, he can and will build an impossibly expensive and useless wall if it makes fearful nativists happy. No, he won’t disavow the Ku Klux Klan — but he will accept the application of the country’s most prominent white nationalist to be a national delegate for his campaign — if he can convince some corner of the conservative Internet that he’s right for them.

Trump has created a new standard for politicking, one without morals. Whether Trump will be able to deliver for his base remains to be seen — the Constitution might have a thing or two to say about some of his ideas — and perhaps he won’t get the chance. But House Republicans were able to switch their votes last week, privately, because Paul Ryan kept the vote-tallying computers running longer than customary.

Why? Because it was up to him. He did it for the greater good of the Republican Party, and nothing more.

This was a very Trumpian move for Ryan to make, and it’s the kind of behavior we can expect to see from the Republican Party should Trump keep succeeding by doing and saying whatever he wants.

In January, New York Times opinion editorialist Thomas Edsall posed the question “What has Donald Trump tapped into that other Republican candidates are missing?”

Jonathan Haidt, a professor at N.Y.U.’s Stern School of Business and author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, told Edsall that many American voters “perceive that the moral order is falling apart, the country is losing its coherence and cohesiveness, diversity is rising, and our leadership seems to be suspect or not up to the needs of the hour. It’s as though a button is pushed on their forehead that says ‘in case of moral threat, lock down the borders, kick out those who are different, and punish those who are morally deviant.'”

Haidt posted his complete response to Edsall’s question on RighteousMind.com, which includes the passage, “So it’s not just rising immigration and diversity that has activated American authoritarians — it may be our rising political polarization itself, which has activated and energized a subset of the electorate that is now lionizing Trump as the first major candidate in a long time who has spoken to their fears and desires.”

Perhaps Trump is already leading by example.

Photo: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) laughs as he speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 25, 2016.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Sanders And Clinton Supporters Are Split On Foreign Policy

Foreign policy drives a deep wedge between the Sanders and Clinton supporters.

According to a new report from Pew Research Center, voters on both sides of the new Democratic divide disagree on a plethora of prominent issues in the international arena.

With six primaries and three caucuses remaining in the Democratic nomination process, and both candidates running as populist champions economic and electoral reforms, perhaps foreign policy is the most telling reflection of the different paths the country would take under the historically hawkish Hillary Clinton or the non-interventionist Sanders.

Among Democrat and Democratic-leaning registered voters supporting Clinton, 66 percent say the world’s problems would be worse without U.S. involvement, whereas only around half of Sanders supporters feel similarly. Sanders’ supporters are less inclined than Clinton’s to say that the U.S. should “help other countries deal with their problems,” with 45 percent saying U.S. efforts abroad do more harm than good.

These sentiments run in line with statements made by both candidates.

Sanders has expressed America would be better off minding its own business, and using force only when threatened — though never independently — stressing concern for avoiding blowback and citing his opposition to the Iraq war, which he blames in turn for the creation of ISIS and the destabilization of the Middle East.

At the first Democratic presidential debate in October 2015, Sanders said, “When our country is threatened, or when our allies are threatened, I believe that we need coalitions to come together to address the major crises of this country. I do not support the United States getting involved in unilateral action.”

Clinton, on the other hand, has attributed the rise of ISIS to the war crimes of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and says the United States should be the leading combative force to assure successful transition of government.

In a 2014 interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, Clinton said, “Jihadist groups are governing territory. They will never stay there, though. They are driven to expand. Their raison d’etre is to be against the West. … I’m thinking a lot about containment, deterrence, and defeat.”

Clinton referenced U.S. success in defeating the Soviet Union, noting that “we made a lot of mistakes, we supported really nasty guys, we did some things that we are not particularly proud of, from Latin America to Southeast Asia, be we did have a kind of overarching framework about what we were trying to do that did lead to the defeat of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Communism. That was our objective. We achieved it.”

A majority of Democrats approve of the U.S. military campaign against the Islamic State, though support is stronger among the Clinton camp, who are also more inclined to say the action is going well.

Almost 60 percent of Democrats are more concerned that U.S. involvement in Iraq and Syria will go too far; significantly more supporting Sanders feel this way.

At home, 51 percent of Sanders supporters said they believe anti-terrorism policies have gone to far in restricting civil liberties, while only 35 of Clinton supporters believe the same.

The two camps are also split on America’s role in the Israel/Palestine conflict. Clinton supporters are twice as sympathetic to Israel than they are to Palestine. Sanders supporters are divided.

Clinton’s steadfast dedication to America’s alliance with Israel was demonstrated during a speech she delivered to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March. As journalist Zaid Jilani of The Intercept pointed out, Clinton’s address was distinctly uncritical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government.

The former Secretary of State said it would be “a serious mistake for the United States to abandon our responsibilities, or cede the mantle of leadership for global peace and security to anyone else.”

She described “three evolving threats” that have made the U.S.-Israel alliance more “indispensable” now than ever before: “Iran’s continued aggression, a rising tide of extremism across a wide arc of instability, and the growing effort to de-legitimize Israel on the world stage.”

Clinton also condemned violence incited by Palestinian leaders, who she said need to stop “celebrating terrorists as martyrs and stop paying rewards to their families.”

Discussing the Gaza war in the previously-mentioned interview with The Atlantic, Clinton said she thinks “Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets,” adding that “Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command-and-control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult.”

Sen. Sanders has held a more dovish view of American interventionism in the conflict, defending Israel’s right to statehood while calling for a cessation of settlement expansion and criticizing the nation’s 2014 military response to Palestinian attacks as “disproportionate.”

Last week, the Washington Post reported Sanders has made changing U.S.-Israel policy a top priority.

During April’s Democratic debate in Brooklyn, Sanders lambasted Clinton’s AIPAC address: “I heard virtually no discussion at all about the needs of the Palestinian people,” he said. “Of course Israel has a right to defend itself, but long-term, there will never be peace in that region unless the United States plays an even-handed role, trying to bring people together and recognizing the serious problems that exist among Palestinian people.”

“There comes a time,” he added, “when, if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.”

Last Summer, during an interview with The Voxwhen asked if he was a Zionist, Sanders responded with disdain for the term before saying he thinks Israel has the right to exist, but America should be impartial in “its dealings with the Palestinian community in Israel.”

Sanders said, “The United States has got to work with other countries around the world to fight for Israel’s security and existence at the same time as we fight for a Palestinian state where the people in that country can enjoy a decent standard of living, which is certainly not the case right now.”

Sanders added that his “long-term hope” is to increase economic aid aimed at improving the standard of living for the people in that region, instead of “pouring so much military aid” into Israel and Egypt.

In regard to the United States keeping its status as the only military superpower in the world, 53 percent of Clinton supporters prefer policies to maintain that dominance whereas about half of those backing Sanders say they would be comfortable sharing that leading role with another country. Neither group wants to increase military spending, though cutting spending is more popular among Sanders supporters.

Photo: Democratic U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton (L) and Senator Bernie Sanders speak simultaneously during a Democratic debate hosted by CNN and New York One at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York April 14, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The Supreme Court Is Being Forced To Waste A Year

Last Monday, the United States Supreme Court provided no ruling on whether employers should be required by law to provide women with access to contraceptives at no-cost. The court’s decision not to decide is the first major installment in what looks to be an ongoing plague of uncertainty in the judicial branch.

The case was Zubrik v. Burwell, brought by 29 religious nonprofits that object to offering female employees insurance coverage for certain contraceptives they equate to abortion, as would be normally required by law under the Affordable Care Act. Instead of ruling, SCOTUS sent the case back down to the lower courts.

This suit has been heard many times already by a number of courts, all but one of which established that religious organizations were exempt from the law. Based on the prior decisions, returning the case to the lower courts can be seen as a de facto win for the religious groups, but both sides dressed the non-answer up in press release speak. Either way, litigation will continue.

In an interview with the New York Times, attorney David Cortman of the Christian nonprofit organization Alliance Defending Freedom — which represents some of the challengers — said, “The Supreme Court was right to protect the Christian colleges and other groups from having to pay fines or fill out forms authorizing the objectionable coverage. The government has many other ways to ensure women are able to obtain these drugs without forcing people of faith to participate in acts that violate their deepest convictions.”

Gretchen Borchelt, vice president for reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center, told the L.A. Times she saw the outcome as good for women, saying “[t]he government can now move forward to assure women have seamless access to the contraceptive coverage. We’re not happy there will still be more litigation, but this should pave the way for women to get full coverage.”

In any case, the White House is pleased. Press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters the decision will “allow millions of women across the country to continue to get the health coverage that they need,” while upholding religious liberty. President Obama, in an interview with Buzzfeed News, said he wasn’t sure why SCOTUS “punted” this case, but he suspects the court would have reached a different outcome had nine justices been present.

Indeed.

Since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February SCOTUS has balanced on a too-even keel, with four sitting conservatives and four liberals, and has deadlocked twice. The court’s punting likely stemmed from justices’ desire to avoid another 4-4 deadlock, which is an unfavorable outcome that leaves the law undefined and resolves nothing. Without a ninth member the court cannot effectively form the decisive majority that is needed to establish law. And because Senate Republicans have vowed to disallow Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland — citing the bogus precedent that it has been 80 years since a Commander in Chief picked a justice during a presidential election year — SCOTUS may end up stuck in this stagnant, gridlocked limbo until 2017.

Speaking to the New York Times about the recent 4-4 ruling on whether workers should be required to join labor unions, Lee Epstein, a law professor and political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, said, “On eight-person courts the justices reach far fewer 4-4 decisions than we would expect. They seem to work hard to minimize them because they’re so inefficient. They can hold over cases, cast strategic votes to avoid a decision down the road that may be even worse ideologically, write narrowly and dump cases on procedural grounds.”

In other words, working with an 8-member court is a total waste of time. And it’s a waste of energy and money, with potentially dire consequences.

In an interview with ABC News, Georgetown University Law Professor Susan Bloch speculated the justicies will be “less likely to take cases going forward” if they anticipate a deadlock. When decisions are sent back down to the lower courts, Bloch said, “all the time the justices have spent considering and debating the case is for naught.”

“[Those cases] have many hours of lawyer time and lawyer time is expensive,” Bloch noted, giving the approximation of “multiple thousands of dollars in billable hours.”

The bench vacancy is also creating a shift of influence from SCOTUS to the lower courts, as the justices can reach total agreement on some aspects of a case and pass other parts back down to the circuit court. This was evidenced by the recent 8-0 ruling in Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, a contentious case concerning partisan gerrymandering that went undetermined. Dan Abrams, chief legal analyst for ABC News, said this meant SCOTUS “agreed on certain issues but didn’t address the most controversial issue on how districts can be drawn.”    

“Suddenly,” Abrams said, “in some of the most divisive cases, the circuit courts have much more power.” This can be problematic because of the varrying ways states can apply and interpret the Constitution.

Each term, the U.S. Supreme Court typically hears about 70 cases; many are boring, but they all carry immense influence, and some are capable of radically transforming peoples’  lives across the country. For instance, in April, SCOTUS heard United States v. Texas — a 26-state-challenge to President Obama’s plan to cancel the deportation of some 4 million undocumented immigrants. With an explosive case like that on the docket, the action taken by Senate Republicans to force SCOTUS to operate one person short is blatantly foolish.

Mitch McConnell & Co. are abusing their power to bully the system into a year-long pause, apparently hoping for a President Donald Trump, whom they would trust more than the incumbent to pick a suitable replacement for Antonin Scalia. It’s sabotage, plain and simple. There is an established system designed to maintain a nine-member bench: justices are elected for life, and when a judge retires or dies, the president nominates a successor, whom the Senate then votes to approve or reject. Obama made his choice. It’s time for the Senate to do its job so the justices can do theirs.


Photo: People line up to visit the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington March 29, 2016.   REUTERS/Gary Cameron 

Trump’s Racist Former Butler Defiant In Face Of Scrutiny

On Thursday, Mother Jones outed Donald Trump’s longtime butler, Anthony Senecal, 74, as an ardent racist and conspiracy theorist who has publicly called for the murder of President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, as well as other public figures including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In posts on social media, the bespectacled butler – who was recently profiled by the New York Times – questions Obama’s nationality and accuses him of lying about being a Christian, asserting the President is actually a Muslim trying to usurp U.S. democracy.

The former butler of Trump refers to Obama as “zero,” and calls Muslims “Muzzies,” a derogatory term.

Senecal and his Facebook “friends” and “followers” feed off one another, discussing concepts like hanging “that sleezy bastard zero” for treason, and taking up arms to fire in the event of Obama declaring martial law. (They all confirmed that indeed they would.)

Threatening a president’s life is a federal offense. On Thursday, in an email to The Daily Beast, Secret Service spokesman Robert Hoback said, “The U.S. Secret Service is aware of this matter and will conduct the appropriate investigation.”

During an interview with CNN on Thursday, Senecal confirmed he wants the president dead. “I don’t care,” he said. “Hanging, shooting – I’d prefer he’d be hung from the portico of the White House, or as I call it, the white mosque.”

On Saturday, the Martinsburg Journal reported Secret Service to have interviewed Senecal. He told the Journal he thought Secret Service wanted to make sure he “wasn’t going to go there with a rifle.” He told the agency that Washington, D.C. was “too far to drive.”

Trump’s former butler restated his anti-Obama sentiments to the Journal, saying, “I think he’s a fraud and a traitor and I say that on a regular basis, absolutely.” Although Senecal wouldn’t kill the president himself, he thinks someone should. “I think it should have been done by the military in the first term,” Senecal said. “They still have the chance to do it.”

In another recent profile, Senecal told the Palm Beach Post that he and Trump bonded over their “similar” political views. He reportedly criticized Clinton during that interview, and endorsed Trump’s proposals including the ban on Muslim immigrants and building a wall along the U.S./Mexico border.

In his Times profile, Senecal comes off as the archetypical butler: inflating his boss’s ego with a manicured subservience from a bygone era, attending to and tolerating unforeseeable demands that only arise in the world of the super-rich, appreciating his humble role at the center of such lavishness — eternally attentive as the hours pass — and cursing Hillary Clinton. One imagines him speaking with the voice of Mr. Howell, from Gilligan’s Island, and to have at least considered wearing a monocle.

Senecal has worked at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Palm Beach, Fla. for 60 years, the Times reports. When Trump bought the estate and private beach in 1985 and turned it into a club, he kept Senecal on staff; and when the butler tried to retire in 2009, Trump wouldn’t have it. Since then, Senecal has served as the “unofficial historian” of Mar-a-Lago, giving tours on an apparently volunteer basis. But according to the Times article, as recently as March 6 Senecal was on the Mar-a-Lago premises acting as Trump’s de facto cheerleader, if not a hired servant.

In 1990, the Times reports Senecal took a sabbatical from Mar-a-Lago to serve as Mayor of Martinsburg, WV – an affluent community where the man who would eventually become Donald Trump’s butler proposed an ordinance requiring panhandlers to obtain a $25 bi-annual permit to beg in the city’s streets. That year, Associated Press quoted Senecal saying the legislation was aimed at “the winos who make a good living off government checks and beg for money the final two weeks of every month after they blow all their government money.”

On Thursday, when the scandal broke, the Donald Trump campaign disavowed Senecal’s statements. A Facebook post from the candidate’s official account reads:

“Trump Campaign Disavows Statements Made by Anthony Senecal

Anthony Senecal worked within the large staff at Mar-a-Lago from March 5, 1994 through May 15, 2009 until he was terminated. He has not been employed by Mar-a-Lago since then — approximately seven years ago.

His statements regarding President Obama and his family are totally disavowed by Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization. They are disgusting. Mr. Senecal is obviously a very troubled man.”

Though Trump marks the end of Senecal’s employment in 2009, the New York Times’ report that Senecal was at Mar-a-Lago as recently as March casts a shadow on the campaign’s disavowal of him.