Bush Trumped in Debate

Jeb Can’t Play It Safe

Bush needs to do more to prevent his campaign from fading into the woodwork.

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens as Jeb Bush (R) fields a question during the first Republican presidential debate hosted by Fox News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena on August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent political polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Bush needs to take advantage when and if Trump fades.

By Aug. 7, 2015 | 1:45 p.m. EDT+ More USNews & World Report Thomas Jefferson Street Blog

I have to admit that I loved reading the so-called Republican insiders’ views on how Donald Trump failed to impress in last night’s debate. They need him to exit stage left (or is it stage right?) as soon as possible. Methinks they doth protest too much.

From the opening question on whether anyone would consider a third party candidacy to Trump’s assertion that they wouldn’t be talking about immigration if it weren’t for him, he was indeed center stage. Did he hurt himself with his base? I doubt it. Did he channel much of the anger of a sizable number of Americans towards politics and politicians? Absolutely. Ohio Gov. John Kasich admitted as much. One fact is clear: Donald Trump is not going anywhere anytime soon. He will be a factor into next year, big time.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the 2016 Presidential Elections]

My sense is that Kasich, New Jersey Gov. Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, despite his pretty poor performance, may still be in the game for future debates. As will Carly Fiorina after her success in the “kid’s table” debate. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is a master debater but scares the pants off many Republicans. My guess is the rest of the crowd will fade.

And that leaves us with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush – still the favorite of the establishment and a formidable candidate. But his performance was anemic to say the least. One debate does not a candidate make or break, as we know. Nevertheless, Bush’s decision to play it safe, not confront Trump, and bob and weave on Iraq and Common Core, puts him in an awkward position as we move into the fall. He is desperately trying to run a general election campaign and still appeal to the base of the Republican Party, which, as it is currently constituted, would make Ronald Reagan blush. He wouldn’t recognize the collection of extremists on the two stages last night.

[SEE: Political Cartoons on the Republican Party]

Bush may succeed by not engaging with Trump and, for that matter, many of his opponents, but what he does not need is to recede into the woodwork in this campaign. He faces real trouble in Iowa, should he choose to compete there, and this could steamroll into a series of second-, third- or even fourth-place finishes. His $100 million-plus helps, but only so much – everyone else having a super PAC changes the rules of presidential politics these days.

Bush needs to up his game and not play the presumptive inside-the-beltway front-runner, especially when Trump has taken a sizable lead. When, and if, Trump fades, Bush needs to be the one voters turn to, and after last night, that is far from pre-ordained.

Bush did not make any glaring gaffes (“I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues”), but he did not stand out in a positive way either. He got lost. With this Republican field, playing it safe may be playing it wrong.

There is a REAL Difference Between D’s and R’s When it Comes to Our Kids


100 Percent of the Future

Candidates should have to explain how they’ll ensure life is better for the next generation.

Kindergarten children eating lunch smiling at camera

Think of them first.

By July 30, 2015 | 11:00 a.m. EDT+ More

Good grief, Charlie Brown! We Americans are inundated with polls – state polls, national polls, online polls, polls testing the who’s up and who’s down of the 20-plus candidates, even the quickie polls after a speech or event. And sometimes polls actually do a decent job of testing the critical issues before the country.

I just came across one such poll, taken in the key state of Iowa, that focused on our children’s future – imagine, looking seriously at our kids, our political system, the economics of what lies ahead. What a novel idea! Having just read noted author Robert Putnam’s latest book “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” I was very interested in the Iowa survey. It tracks very closely with Putnam’s analysis and conclusions: 65 percent express skepticism that “the life for the next generation will be better than for us.” In fact, only 7 percent are “very confident” that our kids’ lives will be better.

What is happening to the notion of upward mobility and the American Dream? And why are we not focusing more on our children? This survey was commissioned to explore those issues by the Child and Family Policy Center and Every Child Matters Education Fund and done by Seltzer & Company, the firm that does the highly respected Des Moines Register poll.

[READ: It’s Just an Illusion]

I am usually skeptical about polls that ask “mom and apple pie” questions such as do you support our kids, are you in favor of a strong national defense, do you care about the elderly? But this poll does not do that.

It shows that voters have a nuanced view of the issues, party affiliation does matter and, most important, the candidates for president in 2016 need to be confronted with what they are going to do to bring back a strong middle class and restore the American Dream for the younger generation.

As the Its About Our Kids website puts it: “Children are 24 percent of the population and 100 percent of the future.”

Here are some surprises from the poll: “Improving the health, education, and wellbeing of children” ranks as the most important issue with 29 percent, followed by “creating jobs and improving the economy” at 23 percent, “pursuing terrorists in the U.S. and abroad” at 20 percent and “balancing the federal budget and reducing the deficit,” also at 20 percent.

[READ: Call the COPS]

There are big differences between Democrats, Republicans and independents, however. Democrats rank kids’ issues as number one with 35 percent, and independents put them at 33 percent. Republicans rank kids much lower at 16 percent and put pursuing terrorists at 36 percent and reducing the deficit at 30 percent, much higher.

We see similar results in differences with the question of investing more in kids, investing less or keeping it the same. The overall numbers are 52 percent more, 32 percent the same and 11 percent less. But Democrats support investing more by 69 percent and only 1 percent say less with 27 percent saying the same. For Republicans, only 34 percent want to invest more, 38 percent say the same and 21 percent want to invest less.

The biggest division between the two parties is on the question of choosing whether you believe “Government efforts to make health care, education, and child care more affordable are integral in helping parents raise their children responsibly” or you believe “A responsible parent should not look to government for any help in raising their children.”

[SEE: Political Cartoons on the Economy]

Overall, 42 percent favor government efforts and 40 percent not looking to government. While Democrats support the first statement by 70 percent to 17 percent, the Republicans favor the second by 66 percent to 12 percent. Pretty close to polar opposites.

The candidates should take these results to heart and truly engage in a debate about how best to restore the American Dream and increase upward mobility for our children. Democrats appear to favor action and a strong role for government and communities; Republicans seem to embrace more trickle down and leave it to the families.

With more and more Americans seeing their incomes stagnate, with a lack of education and support for those on the lower rungs of the income ladder and with more and more people locked into dead end jobs, all of which effects our children, it is time for candidates to answer the simple question: What are you going to do about it?

I hope they will start in Iowa.

Trump: No Filter, No Chance….But Could he Destroy Republicans?

No Filter and No Chance

Donald Trump will only become a factor in 2016 if he self-funds a crazy independent campaign.

Editorial Cartoon on Donald Trump


Now, seriously, does anyone other than “The Donald” truly believe his fame and fortune are going to get him anywhere in a Republican presidential primary, let alone a general election?

His candidacy has been a joke from the start. He makes for great copy, but so did Jack the Ripper.

He has no filter. His ego couldn’t begin to fit inside the Empire State Building. He has no knowledge of the issues confronting the country. He has no experience that would propel him to be taken seriously as president. He is all hat and no cattle, as they say in Texas. He was born on third base and thought he hit a triple. The lines on Trump could go on and on.

Now, I have to confess that his extremism and issue positions – on immigration, on same-sex marriage, on climate change, on Muslim-Obama-born-in-Kenya – do define a certain segment of the Republican Party. And a certain segment probably does spend too much time watching, and being enamored with, “The Apprentice.”

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on Donald Trump]

But, really, does anyone in his or her right mind believe that Trump is a serious candidate for president of the United States? Of course not. Just as Herman Cain or Michele Bachmann never stood a chance yet, at one point, led in the polls.

So, Democrats who are rejoicing due to this Trump foot-in-mouth disease should step back and realize that it is July, 15 months out from the election, and there is little likelihood that he will be a factor in November 2016 or that most Americans will even recall the bizarre back and forth on John McCain’s war record. My Democratic friends can enjoy it while it lasts, but my guess is that it will be fleeting.

Now, of course, there are a couple of scenarios where I may be terribly wrong. Number one: Trump goes all in by self-funding his campaign, participates in debates and remains a candidate well into next spring. Not impossible, but a clear embarrassment to the Republican Party and the field of candidates.

[READ: Trumping His Negatives (for Now)]

Number two is even more serious for the Republicans: the independent candidacy of Donald Trump. The worry is that he gets so mad and frustrated with his Republican cohorts that he jumps ship, starts writing checks a la Ross Perot, and runs as an independent candidate in the general election.

He does not even need to garner the 19 percent of the vote that independent Perot got in 1992, but could get closer to the nearly 3 percent Ralph Nader received in 2000 and still drain votes from the Republican nominee. And if he puts serious millions into the race (Perot spent $60 million in 1992) and plays on the frustrations of the American people, he could be a real factor.

Will he do that? I doubt it, but with Trump you never know.

The conclusion: Trump could be a has-been or he could be a true albatross around the neck of the Republicans. My guess is the former, but what a wild year it would be if it turned out to be the latter.

Most VPs Run For, or Serve, as President


Joe Biden for President?

Most vice-presidents try for the top job.

150324_thumb (1)

By July 6, 2015 | 10:20 a.m. EDT+ More

Got your attention, right? Is there a buzz? Is something going on?

I don’t have a clue and I am not going to discuss the pros and cons of a Biden candidacy in this column. Suffice it to say that I have very little to say and will not speculate.

But I want to make one very interesting point about vice presidents and the presidency.

In the past 70 years we have had 13 Presidents, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Barack Obama. Most of their vice presidents have either become president or run for president, or both.

[GALLERY: Barack Obama Cartoons]

We had both Henry Wallace and Harry Truman under FDR, Richard Nixon under Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson under John Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey under LBJ, Gerald Ford under Nixon, Walter Mondale under Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush under Ronald Reagan and Al Gore under Bill Clinton. And even Bush veep Dan Quayle ran briefly for president.

So, who are we leaving out? Which vice presidents did not run for if not become president?

Over the course of 13 presidents only four of their number-twos did not choose to run or get to serve.

We can start with Alben W. Barkley, Harry Truman’s vice president, who was 75 years old at the end of 1952. We next have Nelson Rockefeller who was appointed vice president under Gerald Ford, after Nixon resigned, and was not a candidate. And, most recently, we have the unelectable Dick Cheney.

Of course, who could forget Spiro Agnew – but who could also forget he resigned in disgrace.

[SEE: Democrat Cartoons]

The very basic point I am making is that there is a prevailing inclination of vice presidents to believe that they would make very good presidents – and they often have the skills, the experience, the drive and the organizational heft to wage a solid campaign.

More and more, vice presidents, like Joe Biden, have played essential roles in governing the country. They are not spending their time at ribbon cuttings but at the center of making policy.

No longer do we accept the statement by John Nance Garner, Franklin Roosevelt’s first vice president and the 32nd man to hold the office, that “the vice presidency is not worth a bucket of warm spit” (actually, he referred to a different bodily fluid but it got changed in subsequent repetition to the more family-friendly euphemism).

Bottom line: it is highly unusual in modern American history for the vice president not to strive for the highest office. No predictions, just a little historical perspective!

Would Republicans Pass the 18-Year Old Vote Today? Don’t Count On It.

Terrified of Turnout

Why today’s GOP-controlled Congress would be unlikely to expand voting rights to 18-year-olds.

In this June 4, 2015 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at Texas Southern University in Houston. Republicans struck back Friday against Clinton's suggestions that they have attempted to disenfranchise voters systematically. They accused the Democratic presidential front-runner of running a divisive campaign and favoring lax controls on voting.

Hillary Clinton has criticized Republicans for attacking voting rights.

By June 25, 2015 | 4:15 p.m. EDT+ More

Hillary Clinton in her speech at Texas Southern University in Houston called for sweeping changes to increase voter participation – expanding voting hours, 20 days of early voting, automatic universal voter registration when a citizen turns 18 and more access to polling places.

She also pulled no punches criticizing Republicans and several of the 2016 presidential candidates for attempting to suppress the vote by putting up roadblocks, especially for the poor and minorities.

My friend, experienced press hand and wise sage, Carl Leubsdorf, wrote a column for the Dallas Morning News on Clinton’s proposals and the rise of voter ID laws. It got me thinking: Would a constitutional amendment giving 18-year-olds the right to vote make it through Congress and the states today?

[READ: Is Hillary Clinton Ready for More Democratic Party Debates?]

I seriously doubt it for two reasons.

First, the movement to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 began in World War II when President Franklin Roosevelt lowered the draft age to 18. As a popular slogan of the time asserted: “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote.”

President Dwight Eisenhower supported it in 1954 but nothing much happened until the 1960s when the Vietnam War was raging and 18-year-olds were being drafted. (More than 2.7 million Americans servedin Vietnam, roughly 650,000 of whom were drafted.) Politicians were having trouble denying this basic right to our servicemen and women.

[MORE: Clinton Wants Automatic Voter Registration]

Another political buddy of mine, Les Francis, was one of the architects of the drive for the vote in the late 1960s, and he described a “confluence of factors” that included a broad bipartisan coalition, the backing of veterans’ groups and labor, a small seed fund set up by the National Education Association, and, importantly, confusing federal and state laws.

The result was a movement that quickly led to congressional approval in March 1971 and state ratification just a few months later. So, the draft of hundreds of thousands of young people to fight in Vietnam and the pressure on elected officials were instrumental in getting the 18-year-old vote passed. But, of course, there is no draft today.

The second reason I doubt it could pass today is that the Republicans would be terrified of extending voting rights to the 18-to 21-year-olds who they believe are far more liberal and Democratic than the electorate at large. The 18-to 29-year-olds in 2012 voted for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by 60 percent to 36 percent and made up 19 percent of the electorate. (In 2008, their vote was 66 percent to 31 percent in favor of Obama over McCain.)

[READ: Supreme Court Deals Blow to Voter ID Foes]

It is no wonder that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other Republican politicians are doing everything they can to suppress the youth vote and to prevent college students from voting. Voter fraud isn’t the problem, their party affiliation is!

Of course, no reasonable Republican would argue now in public against the 26th Amendment to the Constitution but given today’s world, without a military draft and the Democratic bent of our young people, I doubt it would get through this Republican Congress. After all, Republicans are doing everything in their power to suppress voter turnout, not increase it.

HRC: Going for the Base AND Capturing the Middle

Running the Right Race

If Hillary Clinton’s campaign is about nothing, she’ll lose, but it’s not going that way so far.

In this June 4, 2015 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks in Houston.

On the right road.

By June 12, 2015 | 3:30 p.m. EDT+ More—–USNews & World Report Blog

It’s David vs. David.

David Brooks writes in The New York Times that the Hillary Clinton campaign is making a big mistake not going after the middle, and thus expanding its reach, but instead concentrating on its base voters. David Plouffe, the Obama campaign manager in 2008, holds the opposite view: “If you run a campaign trying to appeal to 60 to 70 percent of the electorate, you’re not going to run a very compelling campaign for the voters you need.”

First of all, I am not entirely sure that this is an “either/or” proposition nor, is my guess, does the Clinton campaign think it is. Every election is about making sure your voters turn out, and to win in such a 50/50 political environment you have to persuade independents and undecided voters.

We will find out more tomorrow with Hillary Clinton’s announcement at Roosevelt Island. But let’s look at the arguments, the numbers and the candidate and see how this shakes out.

Despite all the polls right now and all the punditry 17 months out, every reasonable analyst would argue that voter turnout will be a key factor a year from November. In a polarized nation with highly sophisticated targeting and lists of each sides’ likely voters safely ensconced in modeling programs, not much is left to chance.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on Hillary Clinton]

The 2008 turnout set a modern day record, according to the data compiled by the Presidency Project at the University of California at Santa Barbara. More than 131 million voters turned out, which was over 58 percent of the voting age population, the highest percentage since the 18-year old vote came into play in 1972. The number of voters turning out actually dropped to 129 million in 2012, even though the voting age population increased by 10 million.

Clearly, the real question is who will be voting and who won’t and in what swing states with key electoral votes will this have an effect. The number crunchers from each party are putting that data together in as sophisticated a way as they possibly can right now. And they are figuring out what they need to do to maximize their turnout in those key states.

The days of Richard Nixon promising to visit every state in the course of the 1960 campaign are long gone. From Hillary Clinton’s perspective, she needs to make sure that she focuses on those voters she can get to the polls and those voters she can persuade in the course of the campaign.

Certainly, she will likely get in excess of 90 percent of the African-American vote, as well as more than 60 percent (and maybe closer to 70 percent) of the Hispanic vote. She will win the women’s vote and the youth vote. So the real question is 90 percent of what? And 70 percent of what? And will these voters be sufficiently motivated to go to the polls? If her message is mushy and middle of the road and doesn’t portray a future president who will fight for their interests, these voters will sit on their hands.

In addition, she does have a primary fight on her hands and the most compelling opponent is Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who will watch his numbers grow if Hillary Clinton isn’t appealing to progressives. Thus far, she has articulated a very strong and future-oriented platform that Democrats can rally behind. Bottom line, too, is that she is comfortable with this agenda and will push hard in the coming weeks laying out specifics on the issues she has identified.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the 2016 Presidential Elections]

Contrary to the Brooks piece, she has also exhibited her pragmatic and working-across-the-aisle approach as a senator and as secretary of state. The notion that Clinton will only run a “base” campaign does not give her enough credit for her results-oriented approach over nearly 40 years in public life.

I do believe that the campaign understands the importance of running a strong primary race coupled with a general election campaign that mobilizes the large number of voters who are drawn to her candidacy. If the base is disaffected, she is in trouble, just as if many Americans who are undecided believe she is neglecting their interests and move away from her.

If this is a Seinfeld campaign – “the campaign about nothing” – Hillary will lose not just the base but the middle as well. But she is on the road toward a strong, clear, progressive race. My guess is that that the announcement tomorrow will lay that out very well and so will her weekly speeches during the summer on key issues.

Time for a New Church Committee to Investigate the Intelligence Agencies

‘No Place to Hide’

Sen. Frank Church’s warnings from 40 years ago have resonance for the current debate over NSA surveillance powers.

Members of the special Senate Committee created to investigate the CIA, FBI and other U.S. Intelligence gathering agencies meet in Washington, D.C., Feb. 6, 1975.

The Church Committee saw it coming.

By June 3, 2015 | 6:05 p.m. EDT+ More–USNEWS & WORLD REPORT

In 1975, when I was a 27-year-old staffer on the Church Committee that investigated our intelligence community, my boss, then-Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) made this statement on an August 1975 broadcast of “Meet the Press”:

In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. … Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything – telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.

If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. … I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the NSA]

That was 40 years ago – before cell phones, before the Internet, before email, before personal computers, before we even knew the meaning of the phrase “digital communications.” Church saw around the corner and could have made this statement if he was sitting next to Rand Paul on the Senate floor Tuesday.

One of my jobs on the Church Committee was to investigate the NSA’s technology and its practice of creating “watch lists” of Americans – Americans who protested the Vietnam War, demonstrated for civil rights or questioned their government. Church fully understood the abuse that had taken place and what it meant for the future. What he, or we, did not understand at the time was that both then-Sen. Howard Baker (R-Tenn.), a member of the committee, and Church were both put on the watch list to be monitored.

[READ: Rand Paul’s Big Gift]

So, where are we now and what should be done now?

Despite Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s rants, 67 senators voted to reform the Patriot Act and curb NSA’s bulk collection of American’s phone records and to make the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court at least somewhat more transparent. That is a major change from when the Patriot Act was enacted hastily in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001.

But there is much more that needs to be done after Tuesday’s Associated Press revelations about FBI spy planes. Evidently, the FBI has more than 100 secret aircraft it is using to collect information from Americans’ cell phones and photograph areas and individuals in cities across the United States. Over a recent 30-day period, 11 states and 30 cities were spied upon with these aircraft, some with the capability of using the “cell-site simulator” (code name: Stingray). There were no warrants issued for video surveillance, and only recently were some warrants required for the cell phone intervention.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on Congress]

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law are both calling for increased oversight, reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act legislation and serious examination of the impact of the new technology on Americans’ basic privacy. Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act allows for mass surveillance of online communications, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation believes it should be curtailed.

The House and the Senate passed the new USA Freedom Act and the president signed it, but that is only a first step. If we are truly going to get a handle on everything from drones to detention camps to torture, as well as NSA surveillance, we need a full investigation of our intelligence agencies similar to the Church Committee and serious legal and executive remedies.

It’s Time for Real Oversight of Our Intelligence Agencies

Out of Date Intelligence

Lawmakers need to take a long hard look at U.S. intelligence agencies, not rush through a hasty Patriot Act rewrite.

In this June 6, 2013 file photo, a sign stands outside the National Security Agency (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md.

Congress shouldn’t make a move without serious analysis.

By May 20, 2015 | 2:15 p.m. EDT+ More  USNEWS & WORLD REPORT

338-88. That was the overwhelming vote in the House of Representatives last week to end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection program. When little about our Congress is bipartisan, that vote showed remarkable unanimity among Republicans and Democrats that our intelligence agencies desperately need reining in, and soon.

From massive data mining of American’s personal information to the uncontrolled use of torture in secret prisons overseas to the rapid expansion of invasive drones, the time for oversight is now. But several controversial sections of the Patriot Act are about to expire and Congress is in a quagmire about what to do.

Let me offer one suggestion. Don’t make any long-term moves without serious analysis and examination. What is needed is an in-depth investigation of our intelligence agencies and Congress should take the lead with a special, select committee that includes key members involved in intelligence and homeland security issues. President Barack Obama should also issue an executive order to create a “Simpson-Bowles”-type commission on intelligence oversight for the 21st century. Both a Congressional investigation and presidential commission are long overdue.

Before September 11, 2001, oversight was lacking; since then it has been “how big a check can we write?” According to the Washington Post, Snowden-leaked documents indicate that our 16 spy agenciesemploy over 107,000 people and now spend over $70 billion. That is twice the budget of 2001.

Despite efforts to consolidate intelligence gathering and analysis after 9/11 there is still ample evidence that we are confronted with competing fiefdoms, lack of direction, confusing command and control and increased compartmentalization. This, combined with a rapidly growing complex technology that allows for easy collection, inexpensive storage and a vastly enhanced intrusive look at people’s personal information demands a fresh, new look at civil liberties, national security and the laws that govern intelligence.

The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that many of us worked on is woefully out of date, despite selective revisions. The passage of the Patriot Act that was done quickly after 9/11 needs to be seriously revisited. But right now, Congress is rushing to pass legislation without a serious and thorough look at what is needed and why it is needed. Right now, neither the Obama administration nor certain leaders in Congress want to rock the boat on intelligence.

Forty years ago this year the Church Committee was established to investigate domestic spying, assassination plots against foreign leaders and the lack of serious oversight of our intelligence agencies. Next week, two members of that committee, former Vice President Walter Mondale and former Sen. Gary Hart, will headline a day-long look at strengthening intelligence oversight, sponsored by the Brennan Center. Along with former staff members of the Church Committee and other experts, they will explore paths to reform.

As a young staff member of that Committee, I felt that we were steering the country in the right direction, away from warrantless wiretaps of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., away from covert actions that hurt America abroad, away from a system without accountability or serious oversight. We produced 14 lengthy reports on abuses and suggested recommendations, many of which became law.

Now, the technology has changed, the threats have changed, the world has changed. It is high time that our country and our government take a good, hard look at the role and responsibility of our intelligence agencies, the laws that govern them and what kind of oversight is essential to preserving our democracy.


What Hillary Needs to Do — USNews Column

How Clinton Will Win

Hillary Clinton must weather the personal attacks and stay on the offensive to win in 2016.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers remarks during the National Council for Behavioral Health's Annual Conference at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on May 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Md.

She’ll need a thick skin.

By April 22, 2015 | 9:00 a.m. EDT+ More

First of all, I hate these “10 things” diatribes, and I especially hate the presumption that 18 months out from an election anyone should be so arrogant as to claim the answers were apparent. Yet, I find myself having the overwhelming urge to do just that – mainly as an exercise that tests both what might be the conventional wisdom and what might be a bit outside the box. So here goes: advice for Hillary Clinton.

First, this is very much about having a thick skin. If you think the past 20-plus years have been rough, “the vast right-wing conspiracy” was just getting started. If you think the Swift Boat crowd was outrageous and way over the top, that was softball compared to what you will be experiencing. If you think that all those Fox News characters saying nice things about you and Bill was anything other than their way of eviscerating President Barack Obama, fasten your seat belt.

Point is, they want to generate a response from you. That is why there will be more books, more prodding of the press, more hounding your events, more orchestrated and persistent and personal attacks from third parties as well as the nearly two dozen so-called Republican candidates for president. Stay calm. Stay cool. Stay focused on what the American people care about. It will not be easy since much of this will focus on your family, on Bill, on Chelsea, on the work of the Clinton Foundation, on trying to tear you down as a person – your motivations, your personality, your very essence.

[READ: Hillary Clinton 2016 Campaign Bakes Humble Pie in Iowa]

But here is the key: Even as you fail to respond to most of these inane attacks, you need a “truth squad” that sorts through the slings and arrows and makes careful, reasoned decisions on countering the ones that need to be countered. Not just in the eight-second back-and-forth nonsense of gladiator cable TV but in serious, fact-based rebuttals that a responsible press can digest and the public will understand.

Nevertheless, bottom line, this cannot be a defensive campaign. You have the wind at your back, and the Republicans know it. The demographics benefit you tremendously in 2016. When Bill was elected in 1992, 87 percent of the voters were white, and the odds are that figure will be around 70 percent this time. The retrograde Republican Party is destined to nominate someone who will be backward-looking on gay rights, on immigration, on climate change, on women’s rights and civil rights, and on tax giveaways to the wealthy instead of helping everyday working people. Their personalities and platforms will appeal to a narrow portion of the electorate, not most Americans. A candidate cannot be anti-women, anti-black, anti-Hispanic, anti-Asian, anti-gay, anti-young, anti-working families – and pro-1 percent – and win a presidential election.

So, as you began in Iowa and New Hampshire, the message must be about who understands the problems, the frustrations and the predicaments of most Americans. Who will make their lives better, who will fight for them, whose experience and history can be trusted to deliver the goods? Who believes in them and who has been, and will be, effective? As a Senator, you “co-sponsored legislation and engaged in advocacy efforts with nearly every conservative member,” according to the book “The Way to Win” by Mark Halperin and John Harris. Many of these Republican Senators had voted to impeach your husband.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on Hillary Clinton]

So, as intense as the personal attacks will be, your job and the job of your campaign will be to stay on the offensive. Your platform is sound and, unfortunately for the Republicans, theirs is not. I would like to say there are some real substantive differences among the Republicans, but basically they are all cut from the same cloth. And they are all going even further right to win the nomination. This is your opportunity to make your views clear and to provide a solid and hard-hitting contrast to the Republicans.

If they are going to hit you personally for the next year-and-a-half, you can use that time to talk in clear, comparative terms about the country’s future, what you would do and what they would do. The Republican candidates are all in the same boat, not a moderate among them, so votes on the inheritance tax, supporting Gov. Mike Pence in Indiana, cutting education across the country, opposing increases in the minimum wage, opposing immigration reform and being anti-campaign finance reform are all easy comparisons.

Finally, in the upcoming forums and debates that you will have with other Democrats who are running for the nomination – and there will be at least three, I believe (Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb and Martin O’Malley) – you can use that opportunity to draw a clear contrast with the Republicans. There will be widespread agreement among all of you about the train wreck that is this field of Republicans, and this is a great opportunity to draw the clear differences to strengthen your candidacy.

[Hillary Clinton’s Iowa Van Trip and the Problem With ‘Authenticity’]

A version of the listening tour and meeting with voters in these early states will pay huge dividends and should be continued throughout the year. In the coming weeks and months, you can weave in the clear distinctions between you, the Democratic Party, and the Republican candidates and the Republican Party. The change in the Republican Party over the past three decades, especially the past decade, has turned people away. It is increasingly becoming a very small tent, especially as America’s tent has grown bigger. This is not your grandmother’s Republican Party anymore. And that message can be personalized to any one of the Republicans running this year.

This is truly a marathon, and the ups and downs will probably be more intense than almost any presidential campaign in history. But voters respect resilience, appreciate strength and admire leaders who come through the fire. There will be plenty of fire, but you will be the better for it.

Marco Rubio 2016 Bid More Like a Blast From the Past – US News

Rubio’s Blast From the Past

The Florida senator’s 2016 bid looks more like a paean to the Gilded Age than a plan for the future.

In this Dec. 17, 2014 file photo, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Loves him some Gilded Age policies.

By April 14, 2015 | 4:15 p.m. EDT+ More

Marco Rubio, 43, kicked off his campaign yesterday by telling voters that he is the future and Hillary Clinton is the past. He is young, she is old. He is 21st century, she is 20th century.

But there is one very basic and glaring flaw with his argument: His views fit well into the 1800s, while Clinton’s views are modern and look very much like the America of today and tomorrow. Age isn’t everything, Marco.

Let’s try equal pay for equal work. Rubio is against the Lilly Ledbetter Act, while Clinton co-sponsored it. He voted twice against the Paycheck Fairness Act. Clinton is a strong supporter and became the lead sponsor when Tom Daschle left the Senate.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the 2016 Presidential Elections]

How about equal rights for the LGBT community and support for gay marriage? Rubio is solidly against gay marriage and supported not only the recent Indiana law on “religious freedom,” but even the Arizona version in 2013. He is consistently out of step. Clinton, of course, supports gay marriage and equal rights.

On the minimum wage, Rubio is not only opposed to it being raised but has said, “I don’t think the minimum wage law works.” Clinton favors raising the minimum wage.

On tax policy, Rubio has consistently supported the late 19th century, Gilded Age tax policy that benefited the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. Once again, his answer is to cut taxes for the wealthiest of Americans. According to the Washington Post, “If he wins his party’s nomination, though, Rubio will have to defend a tax plan that, while said to address the challenges of the middle class, includes a huge break that all-but bypasses the middle and greatly boosts the rich. It was a tax plan that was even too large for Romney himself to run on.” Rubio would eliminate all taxes on dividends and capital gains. That sounds like it was written by the robber barons of old to me. Clinton, of course, believes that kind of tax policy is the way of the past, not the wave of the future.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on Hillary Clinton]

On one of the most critical issues of our time, climate change, Rubio again has his head in the sand, along with most of the other Republican candidates for president. Last May, he told ABC News that “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. And I do not believe that laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it. Except it will destroy our economy.” Clinton, as we all know, supports efforts to combat climate change, such as the president’s Clean Power Plan.

So, who really has a vision for the future – on equal rights, on equal pay, on tax policy, on the environment – on where this country should be headed? And who does not learn the lessons of history, but seems condemned to repeat them, as if he were back in the 1800s?

If Rubio truly believes his views are appealing, maybe his slogan should actually be “Back to the Future.”


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