The Briefing, Vol. III, Issue 14
- The Clinton Way.
- Barn-burner in Kentucky.
- Dan Bongino moves to Florida.
To: Our readers
From: David Freddoso
Happy Memorial Day. Remember those who earned lonely and distant graves for giving the final measure for their country.
Hillary Clinton: Have you heard the one about that additional, unreported $25 million in Clinton Foundation contributions (in exchange for Clinton speeches) from foreign governments and corporations? These were donations Hillary had promised to disclose as part of the agreement by which she served in President Obama’s State Department. She didn’t.
How about Sidney Blumenthal’s hidden influence over Hillary’s State Department? Obama’s White House had specifically barred Clinton from hiring Blumenthal when she started her job — the Clintons’ old hatchet man had taken a few too many swings at Obama. And so instead of giving him an official title, she kept him on the payroll at the Clinton Foundation and at the Clinton-aligned organization Media Matters. Meanwhile, she helped him feed unvetted and often bogus intelligence on Libya directly to the top echelons at State. He would send her bad information, and she would strip his name from it and forward to senior diplomats. Blumenthal, at the time, was involved in trying to win contracts for a group of business partners from Libya’s new government.
The Clintons have a habit of overwhelming the public with negative information about themselves. In a strange and twisted way, it has always contributed to their success. Eventually, the scandals come so fast and hot that the casual reader becomes confused, and perhaps even assumes that it can’t all be true. The idea that there’s a vast right-wing conspiracy is a lot more credible.
Consider just this past week: The Clintons paid back fundraising efforts by warmly endorsing Ponzi schemers (and although they surely didn’t know about the fraud, they were at least pretty reckless in returning favors, which is worrisome in government officials). They hid facts about their foundation’s fundraising that they had promised to disclose. They employed people who had been barred from the Obama administration and gave them undue access to official channels of government.
And then look further back in this calendar year. Bill pocketed millions in speaking fees from parties with interests immediately before Hillary’s State Department. Hillary pocketed millions from such interests immediately after leaving the State Department.
If anything, there seems to be a vast conspiracy afoot to overload the public with Clinton scandals now so that any future ones have less significance.
The Clintons have gotten away with this before, but the circumstances then were different. They held the White House — the ultimate pulpit from which to bully enemies and defend themselves. They had a much stronger grip on the news cycle than is possible for anyone now, even a president, thanks to the era of social media. So who knows? Perhaps things are different this time. Perhaps it won’t work.
Even more important, perhaps they have finally gored the wrong person’s ox. We have never been inclined to believe the bold assertions about a bitter rivalry between the Clintons and the Obamas, but look at the Clintons’ last two revealed transgressions. Both represent sins against the Obama administration — defiance of Obama on both disclosure and Blumenthal. These allegations don’t just affect the Clintons — they also threaten to make the president look weak and not in control of his administration. They cheapen the promises of transparency with which he began his presidency.
Obama can’t be too happy about that. And it must at least slightly irk those Obama-lovers who might otherwise be willing to defend the Clintons from Republican attacks.
GOP Field: The abundance of potential candidates (there are 16 worthy of note) has created a major logistical problem for the Republican Party and the networks as they plan for debates. Phil Klein notes that the most obvious solution — a strict cutoff based on polling — would, judging by one recent New Hampshire poll, “end up including Donald Trump while leaving out Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry.”
That’s obviously no good. What they should do is just limit one debate to the frontrunners (probably Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker), then arrange for multiple debates that all include at least one frontrunner but break the candidates out into subsets so that each one has a chance to address issues at meaningful length. This isn’t strictly fair or done according to blind criteria, but it acknowledges the reality — most Republicans are trying to choose between one of the four named above — while giving a fair spot to also-important candidates like Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, and others who merit attention yet haven’t demonstrated great strength in the polls.
Kentucky: It was already clear this was going to be a close race, but nobody quite expected an 83-vote squeaker by businessman Matt Bevin over Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. (Pending recanvThe way the count came in was quite surprising, too. Bevin was already being congratulated by various politicos across the state (Rand Paul and top Mitch McConnell aide Josh Holmes among them) before the results from the western counties suddenly threw his victory into doubt.
The primary was a big deal for more than one reason. It was also a historical milestone for the state GOP — the first in modern history (and perhaps ever) in which more Republicans voted than Democrats. Democrats have long enjoyed a large registration advantage in the state, but Republicans have been catching up rapidly since just 2000. The advantage has shifted from more than 2-to-1 in 1995 to just above 4-to-3 in 2015. As McConnell’s big victory in November demonstrates, the state is getting redder than people realize.
The hoped-for parallel among Republicans is Arkansas (where Democrats pretty much ran everything until 2010, and have since been nearly wiped off the map) or Oklahoma (where the same thing happened, only a bit earlier). These states, along with Louisiana (similar story), comprise the final stage of a Republican realignment whose origin is not so much in the 1960s as it is in the 1990s — the point at which demographic change caught up with Democrats who were still dependent on a die-hard Southern nationalist vote to survive and younger white voters no longer saw the point in supporting Democrats anymore.
Kentucky’s realignment should have come earlier, but it was interrupted by the disastrous governorship of Ernie Fletcher, R. Apparently it hasn’t been prevented forever. The impetus at the moment, if Kentucky is indeed reaching that final stage, is probably President Obama’s executive action on coal.
Unfortunately for the GOP, Kentucky still leans Democratic at the state level — even if perhaps a bit less than before — and Democrats have a relatively strong candidate to run against Bevin, who is relatively weak. Bevin now faces the challenge of uniting the party behind him, including all of the enemies he made during his 2014 primary against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R. The run itself is less of a problem than Bevin’s refusal to endorse McConnell after he was beaten. He has come under fire from party officials, who want him to acknowledge this and mend fences.
Even so, unity is in everyone’s interest. The Democratic nominee, 45-year old Attorney General Jack Conway would as governor be able to appoint a replacement for Rand Paul, in the (admittedly unlikely) event he became president. Conway, if victorious, could also remain a future threat to McConnell or whatever Republican would otherwise succeed him in 2020. Kentucky’s current, much older Democratic governor is not a threat in the same way.
Either way, it’s a very tall order for Bevin to win. Early polls have him trailing by between 6 and 11 points.
Florida-18: Dan Bongino, who nearly pulled off the upset of 2014 in Maryland’s heavily gerrymandered Democratic 6th congressional district, has relocated to Florida’s Treasure Coast. It was for family reasons, he says, but he sure isn’t doing anything to discourage speculation that he will run for the Republican-leaning seat being vacated by Rep. Patrick Murphy, D, if this Sunshine State News piece is any indication. Because of the district’s GOP-friendly lean and the open seat opportunity, the Republican field will likely be crowded. Conservatives will have to unite around someone if they want to prevent a renomination of the Carl Domino, who was crushed in 2014 despite the strong GOP year.