Hillary is inevitable no longer

By Tom Keane – The Boston Globe


HILLARY CLINTON is no longer the inevitable next President of the United States, a summertime development that is not unexpected yet still surprises. Now the question is: Who will be the first to mount a challenge?

Two potential challengers (although both deny they’ll run) hail from right here: liberal firebrand and US senator Elizabeth Warren and our cool and collected governor, Deval Patrick. The interest they’ve attracted is evidence of Massachusetts’ continuing influence in national affairs.

Indeed, even though he keeps saying no, there might be a third Bay State contender in the wings: 2012’s loser, Mitt Romney. After all, Hillary’s problems aren’t only that Democratic knives are becoming unsheathed. Republicans also sense that, with a mainstream nominee, they might actually win in 2016.

What a difference six months has made. Back then, polls showed Clinton handily beating potential Republican rivals. A February 2014 McClatchy-Marist survey, for example, showed her with a 58-38 percent lead over former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a 58-37 edge over New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and a 58-38 advantage over Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Her numbers were so strong it seemed possible that no serious figure would contest her for the Democratic nomination.

Today, according to the same pollster, Clinton’s numbers have dropped by 10 or more points, while her three potential opponents have all edged upwards. She now leads Christie, for example, by a slim 47-41 percent.

It’s not as if the three Republicans deserve credit for those shifts. Rather, Clinton is somehow hurting herself. Some point to her new autobiography, “Hard Choices,” and the controversies it engendered. As part of the book-peddling tour, for example, she told ABC News that she and husband Bill were “dead broke” upon exiting the White House. That clumsy effort to identify with the struggling working class was the kind of patronizing, tone-deaf comment that got Romney into so much trouble last time around.

Then too, there was Clinton’s much-publicized break with Obama on foreign policy. “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” she recently told The Atlantic. That deliberate shot at the president earned her a caustic rebuke from Obama buddy David Axelrod, who tweeted, “Just to clarify: ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ means stuff like occupying Iraq in the first place’” — a clear reference to Clinton’s vote in favor of the Iraq invasion.

More important, I think, is the simple fact that Clinton is back in the public eye again. Many are remembering why they didn’t like her in 2008, when for a time she also seemed like the inevitable nominee. She’s not warm and fuzzy or exciting. She’s of an older generation when many hunger for someone new. She’s part of the Democratic establishment, only reluctantly embracing the economic-inequality issues that so fire up the party’s left wing.

And as books such as Kim Ghattas’s “The Secretary” make clear, she is decidedly different from Obama on foreign policy. Clinton was the hawk in the administration, a proponent of a muscular and unapologetic US presence on the world stage who sided most frequently with then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. She makes Democratic doves flutter nervously.

But whatever the reasons, any number of polls measuring favorability or perceived leadership show marked losses for Clinton over the last few months. The sense that she is vulnerable — and could even lose to a Republican — make it increasingly likely that someone credible will soon throw his or her hat in the Democratic ring. And once that happens, look for other hats to fly in as well.

The list of possible challengers includes not just Vice President Joe Biden and Warren and Patrick, but also Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and perhaps even California Governor Jerry Brown. (After all, 76 is the new 66, right?)

Clinton still has the edge on name recognition, access to money, and the makings of a powerful national organization. Even if a number of primary challengers emerge, chances are still good that she’ll end up as the nominee in 2016.

But all of that seemed true in 2008, too. As any bookie will tell you, good odds aren’t the same as a sure thing.




New York Times defends Rick Perry

By Kendall Breitman – Politico


The editorial board stood by Perry’s veto, saying it was part of his job as a governor.

The New York Times’ editorial board is telling readers that they have plenty of reasons to be upset with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, but the veto that led to his indictment is not one of them.

“Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is one of the least thoughtful and most damaging state leaders in America, having done great harm to immigrants, abortion clinics and people without health insurance during his 14 years in office,” the board wrote Monday. “But bad political judgment is not necessarily a felony, and the indictment handed up against him on Friday — given the facts so far — appears to be the product of an overzealous prosecution.”

Perry was indicted on Friday on two felony charges, one count of “abuse of official capacity” and another for “coercion of a public servant.” The case stems from a dispute between Perry and Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County district attorney and head of the state’s Public Integrity Unit who was arrested for drunken driving in April 2013 and sentenced to 45 days in jail. After the incident, Perry demanded that Lehmberg resign or he would veto funding the Public Integrity Unit. When she refused to resign, Perry followed through on his threats with a line-item veto.

“Mr. Perry should have left the matter to the courts, where both a criminal and a civil attempt to have her removed failed, or to the voters,” the Times editorial says. “But his ill-advised veto still doesn’t seem to rise to the level of a criminal act.”

The Times has been critical of Perry in the past, but the paper’s editorial board stood by Perry’s veto, saying it was part of his job as a governor.

“Governors and presidents threaten vetoes and engage in horse-trading all the time to get what they want, but for that kind of political activity to become criminal requires far more evidence than has been revealed in the Perry case so far,” the editorial said.

It continued, “Texas voters should be more furious at Mr. Perry for refusing to expand Medicaid, and for all the favors he has done for big donors, than for a budget veto.”


Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/08/rick-perry-new-york-times-editorial-110136.html#ixzz3ArYKMgDm



Meet Rosemary Lehmberg, the District Attorney at the Center of the Rick Perry Indictment

By Erin Dooley – ABC News


In a move panned by most Republicans and even some Democrats as largely “political,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry was indicted on two felony charges following his veto of state funding for the Travis County District Attorney’s Office — a public integrity unit led by a Democratic lawyer convicted of driving drunk.

Perry, accused of abusing his official capacity and coercing a public servant, said he refused to fund the office because Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg “lost the public’s confidence by acting inappropriately and unethically” following her high-profile DWI arrest and conviction. If she did step down, the governor would name her replacement.

Lehmberg, 63, was apprehended in April 2013 with an open bottle of vodka in her car and a blood alcohol level of 0.23 — nearly three times the 0.08 legal limit. She later pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated and was sentenced to 45 days in jail.

In videos taken the night of the arrest, a stumbling Lehmberg repeatedly insists she’s not drunk, swats away officers’ attempts to steady her, and maintains she can’t pass the field sobriety test because of a bad back.

“I am not doing this. If you want to take me to jail, take me to jail, okay. And you’re going to ruin my career, and that’s fine,” she laughs sardonically. “But I’m not drunk. … I don’t think you smell alcohol and, um, I haven’t erratically drive [sic].”

“You having a good time watching this?” she snarls at the officer. “Yes, yes you are.”

Once in custody, Lehmberg appears increasingly belligerent, kicking her cell door, grimacing, berating officers and even pantomiming shooting a gun at the camera — forcing officers to place her in restraints.

“I’m the district attorney. Get these cuffs off of me,” she demands, calling the arrest “crazy,” “stupid” and “silly.”

“Look at this! I’m restrained like a criminal!” she adds.

Keenly aware of the effect the visuals could have on her career as the most powerful DA in the state, Lehmberg nevertheless refuses to cooperate with officers.

“You’re about to ruin my career,” Lehmberg says. “You don’t understand what you’re doing to me. … Tomorrow morning the [Austin] American Statesman is going to report that I was arrested for DWI. … Congratulations, you guys.”

The day after the incident, Lehmberg released a statement apologizing for her behavior but indicating that she did not plan to step down.

She later announced she would not seek a third term, saying, “There can be no anger directed at me — or disappointment in me — greater than my own.”

Gov. Perry said at a news conference Saturday that Lehmberg “is not an individual who is heading up an office that we can afford to fund.”

“I wholeheartedly and unequivocally stand behind my veto. … Given that choice again, that is exactly what I would do,” he added.

“The veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded to every governor under the Texas Constitution,” Perry’s lawyer, Mary Anne Wiley, said in a statement to ABC News.

“We will continue to aggressively defend the governor’s lawful and constitutional action, and believe we will ultimately prevail,” Wiley added.



US won’t reveal records on health website security

By Jack Gillum – Associated Press


WASHINGTON (AP) — After promising not to withhold government information over “speculative or abstract fears,” the Obama administration has concluded it will not publicly disclose federal records that could shed light on the security of the government’s health care website because doing so could “potentially” allow hackers to break in.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services denied a request by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act for documents about the kinds of security software and computer systems behind the federally funded HealthCare.gov. The AP requested the records late last year amid concerns that Republicans raised about the security of the website, which had technical glitches that prevented millions of people from signing up for insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

In denying access to the documents, including what’s known as a site security plan, Medicare told the AP that disclosing them could violate health-privacy laws because it might give hackers enough information to break into the service.

“We concluded that releasing this information would potentially cause an unwarranted risk to consumers’ private information,” CMS spokesman Aaron Albright said in a statement.

The AP is asking the government to reconsider. Obama instructed federal agencies in 2009 to not keep information confidential “merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.” Yet the government, in its denial of the AP request, speculates that disclosing the records could possibly, but not assuredly or even probably, give hackers the keys they need to intrude.

Even when the government concludes that records can’t be fully released, Attorney General Eric Holder has directed agencies to consider whether parts of the files can be revealed with sensitive passages censored. CMS told the AP it will not release any parts of any of the records.

The government’s decision highlights problems as it grapples with a 2011 Supreme Court decision that significantly narrowed a provision under open records law that protected an agency’s internal practices. Federal agencies have tried to use other, more creative routes to keep information censored.

In addition to citing potential health-privacy violations, the government cited exemptions intended to protect personal privacy and law-enforcement records, although the agency did not explain what files about the health care website had been compiled for law-enforcement purposes. Some open-government advocates were skeptical.

“Here you have an example of an agency resorting to a far-fetched privacy claim in an unprecedented attempt to bridge this legal gap and, in the process, making it even worse by going overboard in withholding such records in their entireties,” said Dan Metcalfe, a former director of the Justice Department’s office of information and privacy who’s now at American University’s law school.

Keeping details about lockdown practices confidential is generally derided by information technology experts as “security through obscurity.” Disclosing some types of information could help hackers formulate break-in strategies, but other facts, such as numbers of break-ins or descriptions of how systems store personal data, are commonly shared in the private sector. “Security practices aren’t private information,” said David Kennedy, an industry consultant who testified before Congress last year about HealthCare.gov’s security.

Last year, the AP found that CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, even as her agency’s security professionals balked. That memo said incomplete testing created uncertainties that posed a potentially high security risk for the website. It called for a six-month “mitigation” program, including ongoing monitoring and testing. The site has since passed a full security test.

Government cyber-security experts were also worried that state computers linking to a federal system that verifies the personal information of insurance applicants were vulnerable to attack. About a week before the launch of HealthCare.gov, a federal review found significant differences in states’ readiness. The administration says the concerns about state systems have been addressed.




Senate Democrats vs. the Middle Class

By Phil Gramm and Michael Solon – Wall Street Journal

Senators elected in 2008 made Obama’s agenda possible, and its results have harmed most Americans.

On Nov. 3, 2008, seven new Democratic senators were elected, giving Democrats 58 votes. Eight months later, with the Minnesota Senate race settled and Arlen Specter having switched parties, Democrats secured the 60th vote to overcome filibusters and impose absolute control over the Senate for the first time in 31 years. In 78 days, American voters will render judgment on the record of the Senate Democratic Class of 2008, and on all 35 Democratic candidates seeking to perpetuate their Senate majority.

The Senate’s Democratic majority was united after the 2008 election in its commitment to President Obama’s progressive vision to remake America. And with a financial crisis afoot, it was determined to not waste the opportunity.

ObamaCare, which gave government control of the health-care system, was vigorously supported, promoted and defended by every Senate Democrat. It became law in March 2010 without a single Republican vote in either house of Congress. Every Democratic senator cast the deciding vote for ObamaCare.

Since the Progressive Era a century ago, Democrats have dreamed of seizing the commanding heights of the financial system to expand government’s ability to influence the allocation of credit. The passage of Dodd-Frank in July 2010, also supported by every Democrat in the Senate, made that dream a reality.

In 1993, President Clinton had been unable to pass a comparatively modest $16 billion stimulus program. Democrats in 2009 passed a massive $787 billion stimulus program with every Democratic senator voting for it. And with the tacit support of Democratic senators who have blocked every bill, resolution or amendment that impeded any aspect of his regulatory agenda, President Obama has implemented the most massive expansion of federal regulatory authority since the Great Depression.

It is impossible for any Democratic senator running for re-election this year to credibly argue that he or she did not support the president’s program or provide a critical vote to enact it. No Democratic candidate can argue that by electing him or her and sustaining the Democratic majority in the Senate, voters can hope to alter the president’s program.

With his party’s Senate supermajority, President Obama achieved a series of historic political victories. But the question most voters will have to answer on Nov. 4 is whether this program has been good for working Americans. We think the answer is clear. As is well known, the Obama recovery is the weakest in postwar history. If the Obama recovery had been as strong as the average of the previous 10 postwar recoveries, 13.9 million more Americans would be working today and the average real per capita income of every man, woman and child in America would be $6,308 higher.

But the real scorecard on the Senate Democrats elected in 2008 is in the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey data. While all Democrats claimed to be champions of the middle class and defenders of minorities and women, census data show how their program did not live up to their campaign promises.

Since the Senate Democratic Class of 2008 took control, the average real income of the poorest one-fifth of American families has declined every year, falling to $15,534 in 2012 from $16,962 in 2008 (the 2013 data will be released Sept. 16). The average real income of the lowest quintile of Americans is now below the level it was in 1968, the year when the War on Poverty began its spending surge.

The next-highest income quintile, often referred to as the working class, has also experienced a continuous decline in real income since January 2009. The average income of these Americans has fallen 6.5% and is now $1,182 lower than it was when President Reagan left office.

The third quintile—America’s middle class—has seen its average income decline to $62,464 from $65,672. More than half of this decline has occurred since the recovery officially began in the second quarter of 2009.

Losses for the typical household, as measured by real median income, have been especially heavy in the very states where 2008 Senate Democrats are up for re-election. In Alaska, household income in 2012 was 7.2% lower than it was at the end of 2008, falling back to its 1988 level. In Arkansas, household income has dropped 8.2%. Colorado households have 13.5% less income than they did before the Democratic Congress and President Obama transformed America. The same is true in Louisiana, where household income has fallen 7.9%. And in North Carolina, household income has declined 10.2%—falling to the lowest level in the 28 years the Census Bureau has provided state-by-state income data.

Census data also show the progressive program has failed women and minorities. Married women, unmarried women and women living alone all saw their incomes fall. Under the Obama administration, the median income of women has fallen more during the recovery than it did during the recession, an unprecedented economic failure in postwar America.

The real median income of African-American households has fallen by 9.5%, more than any other major census classification. Hispanic income has fallen, especially for middle-income Hispanic families, whose income has declined every year since 2008. According to the latest census data, the income of middle-class Hispanics is lower than when Jimmy Carter was president.

The Democratic Party’s great political victory in 2008 led to the realization of a progressive agenda in the making for a century. But that agenda resulted in economic failure for working Americans. It failed as it has always failed: Progressive policies buy votes but destroy prosperity. The Senate Democratic Class of 2008 and the entire Obama program are now endangered because their program has hurt the very people it was supposed to benefit.