By Doug Porter
Six months ago, most Democrats believed the upcoming presidential primary season would be little more than a warm-up for the coronation of Hillary Clinton as the party’s choice to face off against the GOP’s nominee.
A feisty Vermonter with wiry hair has upset the Democratic applecart. Today’s column will start off with two tales of Hillary, told with the hope of providing insight into the nature of her as a candidate. (Those hoping for a bashing session will have to wait for another day.)
I, for one, thought the early campaign months would be focused on the circular firing squad that has come to represent the Republican contest for the nomination. Fortunately, my stockpile of popcorn won’t go to waste.
The Scandal du Jour
The primary Republican technique for dealing with Democrats in high office has been scandal-mongering, and since Ms. Clinton’s already had a spin as first lady, they’ve felt there was no need to wait until the general election.
This is understandable when you consider the GOP’s final vision coming out of their primary process is likely to be unpalatable for large segments of the electorate. While the Democrats are debating injustice and inequality, the Republican field is busily engaged in debating the politics of exclusion.
Given that nearly a dozen hearings on Benghazi (there are more coming!) have failed to produce the anticipated examples of failed leadership (and maybe even treason!), what’s generally referred to as the ‘Clinton e-mail scandal’ is the opposition’s latest offering.
Reading through the morning lineups of political reporting, it’s obvious this “product” has sold well with the establishment punditry. CNN says Clinton’s “stepped up her defense.” The New York Times says her “allies are increasingly concerned.” Faux News says emails sent by a “top advisor” and a “top aide” concerned classified things about Benghazi.
There are two problems with this scandal:
- Nobody outside of Washington gives a damn, and,
- There is no there, there.
Paul Waldman at the Washington Post sums it up quite nicely:
We’re still waiting for somebody to explain the crime Hillary Clinton committed. And to repeat, maybe there is one; who knows. Reporters who find this story interesting should keep digging into the substance, and eventually they and the investigators looking into it will be able to tell us definitively whether there’s anything there.
But the campaign reporters trailing Clinton around aren’t adding much of anything to the story, they’re just asking whether they’ll be asking more questions about it. That’s partly the nature of campaign reporting, and partly because with a Democratic race that’s far less compelling than what’s going on over on the Republican side, they’re starved for things to talk about (and they’d be much more interested if Bernie Sanders and Clinton were attacking each other, which they aren’t). It’s also because of what are often referred to as the “Clinton Rules,” which state that when it comes to Bill and Hillary Clinton, you can whip up a faux scandal out of nothing, then keep talking about it because it’s “out there,” regardless of whether anything problematic has actually been discovered.
The email story may not be the most ridiculous fake scandal in the history of the Clintons, because there’s a lot of competition for that title. As has often been the case, it was a poor decision Hillary Clinton made that got the scandal ball rolling. But there are only so many times you can ask “What is she hiding???” before you have to come up with something that she might actually be hiding.
Yes, it’s true Republicans have been successful in using the email scandal to lower Clinton’s approval ratings, but this hasn’t translated into Clinton trailing any potential GOP opponents in general election match-ups. In other words, even if Hillary did “something,” people who are inclined to vote for her still will.
Hillary vs #BlackLivesMatter
Following an unsuccessful attempt to confront Hillary Clinton at a recent Keene, New Hampshire campaign stop, activists with the Black Lives Matter movement met with the candidate to discuss those issues.
Clinton met with the Black Lives Matter members on Aug. 11 after the group of activists were not allowed into the presidential candidate’s forum on substance abuse. The protesters showed up shortly before the event started and, according to the Clinton campaign, were not allowed into the main event because the room has been shut down by the local fire marshal. A Secret Service agent told CNN at the time that they had also closed the door on any more people coming into the event.
Two videos of the meeting were released this week. They show a frank and almost brutally honest discussion between Clinton and three activists.
Two of the activists shared their disappointment with Clinton’s response on CNN on Tuesday.
“Her policy response — if it’s not addressing the anti-blackness inherent in some of the previous polices, we’re just going to see that thread continue,” Yancey said. “And that’s what we’re looking to hear. What’s shifted? What’s changed for Hillary Clinton that’s going to make us believe that she’s going to take this country in a different direction in terms of race?”
Pragmatist or Sell Out?
Here’s Andrew Prokop at Vox.com:
When Hillary Clinton met with Black Lives Matter activists last week, she told them, “I don’t believe you change hearts. You change laws.” And this wasn’t just an offhand remark — it was a frank explanation of Clinton’s fundamental approach to politics.
Deep in her bones, Clinton is a pragmatist. She has little patience for lofty ideals if they’re not paired with achievable, specific next steps for policy change. It’s an approach that has long animated her politics — from college and law school to the 2008 presidential campaign, she’s continually argued that pragmatism is crucial to achieving progressive change. If you want to actually help people and solve problems, she says, you have to focus on practicalities.
Yet her critics fear that her approach could merely be a cloak for self-advancement — a typical politician’s excuse for not doing enough, for taking only half-measures, or for selling out when deeper change is needed.
Watch the videos when you get the chance. I believe they offer significant insight into the mind of Hillary Clinton. And you might learn some things about Black Lives Matter along the way.
Downtown Battle Developing Over Hotel Taxes
The long simmering differences over how and why hotel guests are taxed may be coming to a head in the June, 2016 election.
Attorney Cory Briggs has announced he is providing $250,000 as seed money to support a ballot measure allowing voters to decide whether to increase the taxes paid by tourists staying in San Diego hotels.
If you think this is just about asking for an increase in taxes, read on.
The measure, called the “Public’s Right to Vote on Hotel Taxes Ordinance,” would:
- Raise the City’s hotel room tax rate, known as the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), from 10.5 cents for every dollar spent on room rent to 15.5 cents.
- Make the additional 5 cents available for funding basic City services such as infrastructure backlog,street,sidewalk, and pothole repairs, public safety, and beaches and lifeguards, parks, and libraries.
- Eliminate the Tourism Marketing District (TMD) “special benefit” tax that hoteliers but not voters approved in 2012.
- Exempt hotels with fewer than 30 rooms from the TOT increase
It’s the third item on the list that will make certain downtown interests see red.
“Since 2007, the City’s voters have been shut out of the process that has allowed approximately $190 million in hotel taxes to be earmarked for a ‘special benefit’ exclusively for the City’s hotels and not for any public benefit,” said Briggs.
“This ballot measure provides a much needed and long-overdue remedy by allowing the public, not a small group of multi-millionaire hoteliers, to decide whether hotel room taxes should be increased. It also gives the public a voice during the budget process to decide how they want the additional money to be spent.”
The ballot measure would require a simple majority vote for passage because it does not earmark how the additional money will be spent.
From Dorian Hargrove at the Reader:
As reported here, Briggs and area hotel owners have grappled before. In 2012, the attorney and the nonprofit he represents, San Diegans for Open Government, filed a lawsuit against the city and Tourism Marketing District for enacting a tax without voter approval.
As required by the state constitution, taxes must be approved by a public vote. But the Tourism Marketing District works around that. Hotel owners and city officials say the surcharge is legal because it is considered a “self-assessment.” In addition, only hotel owners are allowed to vote on whether to impose the fee.
But there are complaints over the vote as well. The vote is weighted according to the number of rooms and size of the hotel. In 2012, as reported by the *Reader*, before the city council’s decision to renew the district, out of the 1379 ballots sent out, only 355 were returned. Of those 355, 127 of the largest hotels approved the surcharge while 218 voted against it. And, because of the weight, despite the numbers, the 2 percent surcharge was approved.
The emergence of this ballot measure threatens the existence of a tourism cabal that’s used its clout with City Hall to promote its agenda, to the detriment of the public interest. I believe there are real estate interests downtown for whom this vote would represent a challenge to the established order.
SDPD Blocks Release of Video Showing Death of Mentally Ill Man
If you thought the days of the “Blue Curtain” around the activities of the San Diego Police Department were over, think again.
Five San Diego media outlets have filed a motion in federal court to unseal a store video of the fatal shooting of Fridoon Rawshan Nehad by Officer Neal Browder, along with his initial statement to investigators.
Nehad, an Afghanistan native with a criminal history and mental health problems, died on April 30 in an alley near an adult book store in the Midway District.
The SDPD officer reported the shooting was in response to being threatened with knife. The weapon in question turned out to be a pen.
While Browder was wearing a body camera, he failed to turn it on as he responded to a late-night report about a man in the area threatening people with a knife.
From an editorial at the Union-Tribune(!):
But Wesley Doyle, who then worked for KECO, a nearby business that had a surveillance camera that videotaped the shooting, tells a different story. Doyle says he watched the video of the incident 20 to 30 times and it doesn’t show Nehad behaving in a threatening manner at all, only Browder hastily shooting the man.
Yet the city, in its response to a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Nehad’s family, stands by the account of Browder, who returned to patrol duty June 1. The department will not provide the video to the media, saying it has no legal obligation to do so.
But the department doesn’t have any legal requirement to keep the evidence under wraps.
Police elsewhere routinely release relevant video footage. Between this fact, Doyle’s account of what the video shows and Doyle’s assertion that he was subjected to an aggressive, intimidating interview by two homicide detectives, the San Diego Police Department is inviting the belief that it is executing a cover-up. The video should be released as soon as possible – whatever the embarrassment or fallout – because not releasing it is also generating embarrassment and fallout.
To get an idea of just how stinky the SDPD–along with the County District Attorney–is being about this case, consider this passage from Voice of San Diego:
Days after first viewing the tape, Doyle said he contacted the offices of Mayor Kevin Faulconer, City Councilwoman Marti Emerald, who leads the Council’s public safety committee, and Rep. Scott Peters to tell them that the video of the shooting was disturbing. [Note: I also talked to him.]
No one called him back, Doyle said, but instead two SDPD homicide detectives visited him unannounced at work to interview him about the tape. Representatives for Faulconer, Emerald and Peters did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Doyle said the detectives were aggressive and intimidating.
“Why are they interviewing a guy who saw a video when they themselves have the video?” Doyle said.
On This Day: 1965 – The Rolling Stones single “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was released in the U.S. 1968 – The Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact nations began invading Czechoslovakia to crush the “Prague Spring” liberalization. 1986 – Deranged relief postal service carrier Patrick “Crazy Pat” Henry Sherrill shot and killed 14 coworkers, and wounded another six, before killing himself at an Edmond, Okla., postal facility. Supervisors had ignored warning signs of Sherrill’s instability, investigators later found; the shootings came a day after he had been reprimanded for poor work. The incident inspired the objectionable term “going postal”
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