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‘Gun for hire’: how Jeff Sessions used his prosecuting power to target Democrats

As the justice departments man in Alabama, Trumps attorney general indicted political opponents in remarkably thin cases, court filings show

Arthur Outlaw wanted a second term.

It was 1989 and Outlaw, the Republican mayor of Mobile, Alabama, was girding himself for his re-election campaign. Word was that Lambert Mims, a popular local Democrat, would run against him. Some Republicans were growing skittish.

But a close friend of Outlaws had something planned. The friend had been president of the state Young Republicans, chairman of the regional GOP, then a senior official in the Mobile County Republican party. And now he was the top federal prosecutor in southern Alabama.

Jeff says that Mims wont be around by that time, an Outlaw aide said ominously, while discussing the election at a City Hall meeting that February, according to a sworn affidavit from an official who was in the room.

A few months later, Mims confirmed that he would be challenging Outlaw. Then Jeff Sessions made his move.

Sessions, then the US attorney for Alabamas southern district, indicted Mims on criminal corruption charges relating to obscure four-year-old negotiations over a planned recycling plant. Mims was the ninth notable Democrat in the area to be indicted by Sessions since the young Republican was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. He would not be the last.

Opponents concluded that Sessions used his federal prosecutors office, and the FBI agents who worked for him, as political weapons, according to more than half a dozen veterans of Mobiles 1980s legal and political circles. Some alleged in court filings that the ambitious young Republican actually worked from a hitlist of Democratic targets.

Sessions was a gun for hire, said Tom Purvis, a former sheriff of Mobile County, and he went after political enemies. Purvis was acquitted of charges against him that Sessions oversaw after Purvis unseated another Outlaw ally from the elected sheriffs position.

The decades-old concerns have been revived by Donald Trumps appointment of Sessions as US attorney general, and the mounting anxiety over his ability to remain even-handed as the nations most senior law enforcement official given his record of vigorous partisanship. Earlier this week, Sessions was pressured into removing himself from oversight of any FBI investigations into the Trump campaigns contacts with Russia.

Bolstering the claims are the remarkably thin prosecution cases brought by Sessions against some of those Democrats he indicted, which are detailed across thousands of pages of archived court filings that were reviewed by the Guardian.

Lambert
Lambert Mims. Photograph: Garry Mitchell/AP

Sessions had no direct evidence that Mims had committed a crime. The recycling plant was never even built. Ive never seen such a flimsy, weak case as this against anybody, Mimss attorney said in court.

Still, Sessionss office, which boasted a 95% conviction rate, persuaded a jury to find Mims guilty. Mims, a 60-year-old lay preacher, sobbed through his trial. He cried when he was convicted, then cried again when he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. I will go to my grave proclaiming my innocence, Mims told Judge Charles Butler.

A few years later, Sessions ran to be Alabama attorney general. His old friend Outlaw, who was also a wealthy businessman, personally donated $25,000 to Sessionss campaign. It was more than any other contributor gave.

He is an ideologue

Sessions began the 1980s on the front lines of Mobiles partisan warfare.

Having left his job as an assistant US attorney following the election of Jimmy Carter as US president, Sessions worked on Ronald Reagans triumphant 1980 White House bid in Alabama and campaigned to elect fellow Republicans to local offices that were then still dominated by conservative Democrats.

After one such contest ended in narrow defeat for a Republican nominee, Sessions was incandescent. The 34-year-old disputed the result in the county courts and forcefully demanded a full recount.

During one hearing, Sessions so furiously accused the Democrats of wrongdoing that the judge ruled him out of order three times. The Republicans took the election challenge all the way to the Alabama supreme court before finally admitting defeat.

It was a declaration of intent.

He is an ideologue, said Ed Massey, a Mobile attorney who has known Sessions since the 1970s. His attitude was, Ive got a job to do, and this is what I think my job is, and Im going to do it with guns blazing.

A few months later, Sessions was announced as Reagans choice to fill the top job in the federal prosecutors office in Mobile. Once installed, he quickly got to work on reshaping the agenda of this little outpost of the US justice department.

In September 1982, Bob Gulledge, a first-term Democratic state senator, was preparing to defend his seat when Sessions indicted him for alleged land fraud conspiracy. Gulledge and an associate had profited from the sale of a tract of land that had been bought with a mortgage from a government-backed lender where the associate was also an executive.

What are we doing here? Wheres the crime? Gulledges exasperated attorney asked the court at trial, after Sessions gave an extravagant 90-minute opening statement.

The attorney, Barry Hess, said Gulledge was no different from other borrowers except he happened to be in the state senate, and happened to be running for re-election soon:

The prosecutor is like a dog with a bone, said Hess. Its a bone with no meat on it, but he keeps playing with it, burying it. There just aint any meat on it.

A mistrial was declared after jurors could not reach a verdict. But by then, Gulledge had lost his party primary contest, and was out of his re-election race altogether. He did not respond to requests for comment.

As the next election season approached in late 1984, Sessions struck again. The city commissioner, Gary Greenough, was sentenced to 10 years for allegedly stealing a cut of the profits from Mobiles municipal auditorium, a city-run entertainment venue that hosted top-tier shows such as the Jacksons, Santana, and Kool and the Gang.

Greenough, who had, with Lambert Mims, pushed through municipal contracting reforms that left Sessions allies out of pocket, always maintained his innocence.

And a review of the case shows that the evidence against him was far from clear-cut. His conviction rested on the testimony of two auditorium managers, who were clearly guilty of embezzlement themselves, and made plea deals with Sessions in return for their cooperation in prosecuting Greenough.

In the paperwork that he submitted earlier this year to the US Senate judiciary committee for his confirmation hearings, Sessions named the Greenough case as one of the 10 most significant of his career.

It was about eliminating opposition, said Danny Mims, one of Mimss sons. The reason they targeted my father was that he was really good at it.

Rejection for a federal judgeship

Activists
Activists call on the Senate to reject Jeff Sessions as attorney general in November. Photograph: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for People For The

The fight was not only partisan but generational. Members of a so-called Old Establishment in Mobile politics were increasingly seeing their jobs, and patronage for their corporate backers, threatened by a new breed of upstarts. With Sessions as its spearhead, the establishment fought back.

Rumors began flying around Mobiles corridors of power and newspaper gossip columns about who might be next in line for indictment. The atmosphere grew increasingly febrile.

They would do it just to shake the branches, said one prominent Mobile attorney from the time, who did not want to be identified being critical of the US attorney general because he still practices law. The FBI would put people through these vague, threatening interviews, trying to get them to say things about other people.

The inquiry into Greenough was led by Jack Brennan, a senior FBI agent in Mobile who was close to Sessions. Distinctive for his puffy red face and thinning hair, Brennan would reappear several times in Sessionss cases against local Democrats. Reached by email, he did not respond to questions.

At 7am on 25 November 1985, Brennan and two other investigators paid a visit to the home of Gurney Owens, Mobile Countys top waste disposal official. Owens was in deep trouble.

He had been caught on tape soliciting a bribe from a local businessman, who had been trying to secure a landfill contract. Unknown to Owens, the businessman, Gerald Godwin, had been wearing a wire for the FBI and Sessions when the pair chatted over a breakfast of eggs, bacon and coffee at the Quality Inn.

Now the agents in his living room were telling Owens they could help him to help himself. He was facing a long prison sentence, they said, but it could be cut down to two years if he cooperated with what they and Sessions wanted.

The US attorneys office and the FBI presented to Mr Owens a hitlist of approximately 20 people that they wanted him to snare, Owenss attorney, Jim Atchison, said in a statement filed to court. It is interesting to note that every single person on the list is either a well-known Democrat or active in the Democratic party.

The county waste official said he was dumbfounded by what was being asked of him. They told me that they wanted me to wear a concealed radio transmitter and go out and talk to a number of people and see if I could involve them in something improper or illegal, Owens said in his own statement.

Sessions flatly denied the existence of a hit list, later telling US senators that Owenss allegation was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen in my practice of law. A justice department review agreed that the claim of a list was utterly without foundation.

But William Hinshaw, the FBI official who took over the Mobile office in 1986, said in an interview that it was feasible. It is a technique that is used, he said, noting that a justice department official should sign off on such a target list.

Owens declined to take the deal. He was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Sessions would get really, really mad at my dad because my dad refused to roll over, recalled Owenss son Gerry, who said he once watched an enraged Sessions berate his father in a courthouse corridor. Hed be sitting there calm as can be, and would then explode like a firecracker.

In any case, Owens had already helped Sessions and the FBI with one of their targets. On the secret recordings, Owens was heard claiming he had been ordered to collect the bribe by Douglas Wicks, a Democratic county commissioner, who had voting power on who should win the contract.

Wicks insisted that this was merely a cover story that Owens told to make himself look better while requesting money he would actually keep himself. Sessions did not initially indict Wicks for involvement in the alleged bribery. But then came Sessionss disastrous visit to Washington DC.

Still only 39 years old, Sessions was nominated by Reagan for another promotion as a federal judge for Alabamas southern district.

Democrats in the Senate had other ideas. Members of the Senate judiciary committee voted to reject Sessions, after receiving allegations of racism toward African Americans. It was only the second time in 50 years that a nominee had been denied a federal judgeship.

Wicks, who had been the first black person elected to the Mobile County commission, had a walk-on role in the melodrama. During the Senate hearings, future vice-president Joe Biden asked Sessions if it was true that he called Wicks a nigger during a break in a court hearing in November 1981.

Sessions denied using the racist term but the allegation, coupled with other first-hand accounts of Sessions use of racially insensitive language, went some way to killing his nomination.

A few months later, his judgeship prospects in tatters, Sessions indicted Wicks after all. The indictment for extortion was publicly unveiled by Sessions two days after the Senate confirmed an attorney to take the judgeship he had been denied.

Sessions decided to go after me because he didnt get the judgeship, Wicks said, echoing remarks he made immediately after being indicted.

Sessions accused Wicks of demanding a bribe from the owner of a pumping firm in return for a permit. Owens said so, too. But the businessman testified that he voluntarily gave Wicks a campaign contribution after the permit had been given. I dont feel that I was extorted, he said.

douglas
Douglas Wicks. Photograph: Courtesy Douglas Wicks

There was also no proof offered that Wicks had received the bribes that Owens was recorded asking for. Brennan, the FBI agent, fed Godwin wads of marked $20 bills to make the bribes, and then followed Wicks around Mobile trying to catch him spending them at stores and restaurants. But none of the $20s were recovered.

The lack of any smoking gun might have seen Wicks headed for an acquittal. But something extraordinary happened in the days before his trial.

On 4 March 1987, Wicks and a friend were looking around vacant houses that had recently been bought by the city of Mobile. The structures were to be sold and moved elsewhere to make way for new construction. Wicks and his friend stopped at one house with a set of anti-burglar bars on the ground outside. They picked up the bars and threw them in their truck to sell as scrap metal.

But a man appeared and told them that he was in the process of buying the house. Where are you going with my stuff? asked the man. Wicks, who thought he recognized the man, apologized. We didnt know anybody owned this place, Wicks said. They returned the bars to where they had been found, and left.

Wicks later realized that the man who had confronted them was Brennan, the FBI agent and friend of Sessions, who had been surveilling Wicks for months for the corruption case. Wicks was charged with theft. A story about the case ran on the front page of the Mobile Register under the headline Wicks charged with felony. Days later, Wickss trial for extortion began.

It was unfair, so unfair, said Irmatean Watson, a Democratic city councilwoman at the time. It was all political. Douglas didnt do anything wrong.

Hinshaw, then the FBI field office chief, said in an interview that Sessions had personally approved the arrest of Wicks for the theft and brushed aside any concerns about political correctness or awkward timing.

He strenuously denied that the theft charge was cooked up to tarnish Wickss name before his trial. Agent Brennan insisted that he really was buying the house, and that another man named as the purchaser in the county records was acting on his behalf.

But Wicks and his attorney, Billy Kimbrough, claimed the FBI had been watching and waiting for any act by Wicks that they could make look like criminal activity. The following month the charges relating to the burglar bars were dismissed. By then, Wicks had been found guilty in the corruption trial and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Mims was not a crook

It was the prosecution of Mims, however, that astonished even hardened Mobile political operatives. At the center of the case, wearing a wire once again, was Gerald Godwin, the same businessman who helped Sessions nail Owens and Wicks.

Godwin alleged that he had been pressured to give 40% of his company to a friend of Mimss if he wanted Mims to award him the contract to develop the recycling plant.

There was no evidence presented of such extortion, let alone Mimss knowledge of it, let alone his involvement in it. Godwin claimed to have been threatened on 30 September, yet Mims had already signed a city resolution agreeing to the plant almost a week before that. The negotiations collapsed and the plant was never built.

And yet four years after Mims had stepped down from politics, and shortly after he reappeared with his campaign for mayor Sessions proceeded with criminal charges against him.

Mims was not a crook. He would never have knowingly done anything like what they claimed, his attorney, Thomas Haas, said in a recent interview. These people were politically motivated.

After pleading not guilty, Mims told reporters that he was a victim of people who have used the system to try to destroy me politically and that the indictment had been timed to affect the outcome of the election.

The authorities had even sent an FBI agent into Mimss office, posing as an executive from a mortgage lender, and tried to make Mims reveal illegal cronyism by saying on tape that his friend would definitely be awarded the contract. But Mims was only recorded saying platitudes such as: Naturally, Id rather see local people get it rather than to bring in somebody from out of state.

So underwhelming was the evidence when played in court that the Mobile Registers front page headline the following day was: Recording reveals no wrongdoing.

Attempting to have the case thrown out, Haas called it a farce and a cruel joke. In his closing argument, he told jurors: You have wasted 10 weeks of your life. There is no evidence of any criminal activity by Mr Mims. Youve heard the evidence. Thats all there is, folks. The fat lady has sung.

After more than 20 hours of deliberations, however, the jury found Mims guilty.

Asked following the trial whether he had brought the prosecution to kill Mimss political career, Sessions said nothing could be further from the truth. These cases are based on the law and the facts and not on any other consideration, he said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/04/jeff-sessions-legal-past-democrats-trump-administration


EPA fears ‘unprecedented disaster’ for environment over Scott Pruitt pick

Senate Democrats vow to fight Trumps nominee to lead the EPA, a climate denier who has sued the agency multiple times as attorney general of Oklahoma

Democrats have promised to stage a last-ditch effort to thwart the appointment of Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, amid fears within the agency that he will trigger an unprecedented disaster for Americas environment and public health.

Donald Trump has nominated Pruitt to lead an agency he has sued multiple times in his role as attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt has vowed to dismantle serried environmental rules and is currently involved in a legal effort by 27 states to overturn Barack Obamas clean power plan, the presidents centerpiece policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses, Pruitt said in a statement.

Trump said Pruitt is a highly respected attorney general who will reverse the EPAs out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs. Earlier this year, the president-elect said there would be just little tidbits left of the EPA if he made it to the White House.

Environmental groups have reacted with dismay at the nomination of Pruitt, warning that he will not only tear up much of Obamas climate legacy but also imperil the reliably clean air and water that Americans have largely enjoyed over the past 40 years. Democrats have vowed to fight Pruitts nomination, with Chuck Schumer, the minority Senate leader, promising a torrid confirmation hearing for the Republican lawyer.

Some Democrats are hopeful that a number of Republicans could join them to block Pruitts confirmation. This is full-fledged environmental emergency, this is someone (Pruitt) who is a professional climate change denier, said Brian Schatz, a senator from Hawaii. This is a litmus test for every member of the Senate who believes in science. We are going to do everything to oppose his nomination, and we are confident we can do so.

Other elected Democrats have also vowed to take on Pruitt, with Eric Schneiderman, attorney general of New York, promising to use the full power of my office to compel the EPA to uphold federal environment laws.

Republicans, the majority party in the Senate, have largely welcomed Trumps pick. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma senator and a vocal denier of climate science, said Pruitt is thoughtful, experienced and a natural pick for the EPA administrator role. Inhofe is chairman of the Senate environment committee, which will question Pruitt prior to his confirmation.

EPA staff have expressed nervousness over Pruitts nomination, given his zealous pursuit of the agency. Pruitt has fought against EPA regulations that prevent air pollution haze in national parks, methane leaks from drilling and mercury and arsenic seeping from power plants.

The attorney general has proved to be such a staunch advocate for fossil fuels that he allowed Oklahoma firm Devon Energy to use his letterhead to send a three-page complaint to the EPA in 2014. He has questioned the accepted scientific stance on climate change, claiming in May that the debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.

One EPA scientist, who asked not to be named, said that Pruitt risks being an unprecedented disaster for the natural world and public health. Other EPA advisers warned that the agency risks being trampled under Trumps agenda of boosting corporations and eviscerating climate action.

Pruitt doesnt believe in the mission of the EPA, which is to protect human health and the environment, said Lisa Garcia, vice-president of Earthjustice and a senior adviser to the last two EPA administrators.

This isnt a business agency, its an environmental agency. Its scary to have someone who doesnt believe in the mission of the EPA walking in to run it. I expect they will choke the funding of the EPA and stop enforcing laws. The work of the agency will basically come to a halt.

People at the EPA are in shock, they are worried about carrying out its mission. People are worried about how they will do their jobs, even people who voted for Trump. They didnt expect this. Clean air and water, safe places for our children to play these things should be bipartisan. They should be above politics.

Trump has previously called climate change a hoax and threatened to end all spending on climate change and clean energy, but environmentalists saw a glimmer of hope when the real estate magnate met with Al Gore, the former vice-president, and the actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Both regularly call for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The nomination of Pruitt, however, presages a lengthy battle between the Trump administration and green groups.

Donald Trump has made it clear that he intends to wage war on clean air and clean water, said Benjamin Schreiber, climate and energy program director at Friends of the Earth US. Trump has also put our climate in peril and shown he is out of step with the American people. With this EPA pick, Donald Trump is putting all Americans at risk.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/08/epa-scott-pruitt-disaster-environment-senate-democrats


Election diary: Trump as Stalin, the future of TV and more WikiLeaks scoops

David Smith chronicles a busy week in a bizarre election year in which Donald Trump made inauguration plans (for a hotel) and Hillary Clinton became a muse

Mark Wednesday in your diary. The Trump family will host an official ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Trump International hotel in Washington, said a press release. We invite you to join us for this very special day.

The luxury hotel is in the Old Post Office Pavilion a few blocks from the White House. But not long after opening to its first guests last month, the hotel was spray-painted with messages of Black Lives Matter and No Justice No Peace on its front entrance.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/22/election-diary-donald-trump-hillary-clinton-hotel


Rob Delaney raises almost $70,000 against former pro-Trump Republicans

The actor will donate to Democratic campaigns against GOP politicians, including John McCain, who withdrew support for Trump over misconduct allegations

Comedian Rob Delaney has raised tens of thousands of dollars in a bid to oust Republicans who tried to distance themselves from Donald Trump following his recent scandals.

Delaney, star of the TV show Catastrophe, established a fund on ActBlue, a fundraising site for the Democratic party, to raise money for opponents of Republicans who retracted their endorsement from Donald Trump in the past week after a recording of Trump making lewd remarks during an Access Hollywood appearance about groping women surfaced.

The fund has raised $68,294 from 1,176 donors in the four days since its launch.

Thats what it took for you to disavow him? Delaney said in a blogpost announcing the fund titled No Getting Off the Train. Since Im not a total moron, I know that what really happened is that it finally became clear to anyone who knows how elections work that Trump was definitely going to lose.

So the same drive for self-preservation that led these turd balls to endorse him in the first place, he continued, has compelled them to pull the ripcord when Access Hollywood revealed their pussy tape and gave them the opportunity to pretend they care about women or something.

rob delaney (@robdelaney)

#MAGA Please read, RT & punish defectors! https://t.co/lqpeqhrWMs #MakeAmericaGreatAgain pic.twitter.com/PwjowAH64D

October 9, 2016

The list includes more than a dozen names and the money will be distributed evenly among their opponents. Some Republican heavyweights are featured on the list such as former presidential nominee John McCain, who revoked his endorsement on Sunday, and New Jersey congressman Scott Garrett, who originally said Mike Pence would make a better nominee after the video was released but later added he would still vote for Trump.

Delaney is vocal about politics and, while he voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary campaign, he said he will be voting for Hillary Clinton for her policy on healthcare and her potential supreme court justice picks.

He has encouraged his 1.4 million Twitter followers to donate and has also called on Trump and his supporters to pledge to the campaign.

rob delaney (@robdelaney)

.@realDonaldTrump Sir, I made a fund to help defeat Republicans who are un-endorsing you! Please RT! https://t.co/lqpeqhrWMs

October 9, 2016

Several celebrities have chimed in to express their disdain towards Trump and have encouraged voters to register and ensure that the real estate mogul does not win the election. A litany of stars including Scarlett Johansson, James Franco, Julianne Moore and Don Cheadle, among others, released a video saying Mark Ruffalo also in the video would appear naked in his next movie if people registered to vote.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/13/rob-delaney-fundraising-donald-trump-republicans


Clinton campaign’s online ad lets voters compare candidates’ careers

The interactive advertisement features a timeline that juxtaposes Hillary Clintons political work with Donald Trumps controversial remarks and tweets

Hillary Clintons campaign released a new interactive web ad on Wednesday, unveiling a shuffling timeline that allows users to compare Clintons career to that of Republican opponent Donald Trump.

In the timeline, Clintons campaign pits her work as first lady, senator and secretary of state against some of Trumps more incendiary remarks and tweets.

In 2013, the ad notes, Clinton finished her tenure as secretary of state, four years after she was confirmed. The same year, Trump tweeted about the scourge of sexual assaults in the military, asking: What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

26,000 unreported sexual assults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?

May 7, 2013

He recently defended the tweet at a town hall. Well, it is, it is a correct tweet, he said in response to a question from Matt Lauer. He refrained from recommending that women be removed from the military, but said something has to happen.

The ad attacks Trump on the myriad allegations of racism within his real estate industry. The timeline links to New York Times coverage from 1973, when the US justice department sued the Trump Management Corporation and accused Trump and his father of discriminating against black renters. The ad contrasts the federal governments suit with Clintons graduation from Yale Law School the same year and the beginning of her work at the Childrens Defense Fund.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/12/hillary-clinton-campaign-ad-donald-trump-careers


Clinton campaign fends off questions about WikiLeaks ‘speech excerpts’

Kaine doubts accuracy of documents dumped by hacking organization while Giuliani leads Republican attack, saying: We have a person who is a liar

Leaders of Hillary Clintons campaign were forced on the defensive on Sunday, over apparent leaks from paid speeches the Democratic presidential nominee made to top bankers, whom she said she had fought for as a senator for New York and whose role after the 2008 financial crisis she said was misunderstood.

The leaked excerpts also exposed Clinton to uncomfortable questions about her true views on trade deals and the movement of labour, both hot-button issues in the presidential election against the Republican Donald Trump.

In interviews hours before the second presidential debate in St Louis, Clintons running mate, Tim Kaine, said he could not verify whether the candidate had actually said what was in the excerpts, which were released by WikiLeaks through hacked emails from members of the Clinton campaign.

According to the excerpts, which were released on Friday, Clinton told Brazilian bankers she had a dream of a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, and told Goldman Sachs bankers Americans had misunderstandings about the financial crisis.

I have no way of knowing the accuracy of documents dumped by this hacking organization, Kaine told CNN, noting that US intelligence officials have accused Russian security services of orchestrating the hack in order to influence the election. If that is in fact true, then you cannot accept as gospel truth anything they put in a document.

Pressed about Clintons positions, Kaine said: I have no way of knowing that.

The CNN host, Jake Tapper, insisted: You could ask her. Kaine replied: I havent asked her. But you asked me about her position on trade and her position on trade is very clear.

Clintons campaign manager, Robby Mook, similarly struggled to answer questions about the purported excerpts, including a 2013 speech to Goldman Sachs bankers which discussed Clinton having a separate public and a private position.

If everybodys watching, you know, all of the backroom discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous to say the least, Clinton told the bankers, according to the excerpt. So you need a public and a private position.

Mook told CBS: I think theres a distinction between what goes on in negotiations and what her positions are on the issues and have been on the issues.

He tried to argue that Clinton had fought for financial regulation before the crisis and recession.

Hillary Clinton went to the floor of the Nasdaq in 2008 and said that these swaps and derivatives, and what was going on with the mortgage lending market, was wrong and was going to crash the economy, Mook said. Shes called for closing the interest loophole for some time now.

Her public position and what shes going to fight for as president for are one and the same.

Clinton did deliver a speech in March 2007, in the early weeks of the financial crisis, blaming mortgage industry practices and recommending a few reforms. She mentioned derivatives and further reform in November that year and on the campaign trail in 2008, well into the crisis.

Years later, however, Clinton told her Goldman Sachs audience it was an oversimplification to blame our banking system causing this everywhere, the email excerpts show.

Theres a lot that could have been avoided in terms of both misunderstanding and really politicizing what happened, she said in a 2013 speech, according to the leaked excerpts, with greater transparency, with greater openness on all sides, you know, what happened, how did it happen, how do we prevent it from happening?

You guys help us figure it out and lets make sure we do it right this time.

Throughout the Democratic primary, Clinton was accused of an overly comfortable relationship with Wall Street by her rival on the left, Bernie Sanders. He also mocked her for her refusal to release the text of the private speeches, saying: I kind of think if youre going to be paid $225,000 for a speech, it must be a fantastic speech.

On Saturday, Sanders reaffirmed his support for Clinton, saying: Whatever Secretary Clinton may or may not have said behind closed doors on Wall Street, I am determined to implement the agenda of the Democratic party platform, which was agreed to by her campaign.

Clintons campaign chairman, John Podesta, insisted that the excerpts had been taken out of context. There is nothing that she has said in private that she doesnt say in public, he told Fox News Sunday.

She has said all throughout this campaign that she will crack down on Wall Street, he said. She has put forward the most aggressive Wall Street plan of any candidate, really.

Referring to legislation passed in 2010 that took measures to re-regulate Wall Street after the 2008 financial collapse and recession, he added: She stands behind Dodd-Frank, while [Donald] Trump wants to rip it away.

People on Wall Street know how to game the system. What she wants to do is crack down on the system, make sure that there is no institution too big to fail and no person thats too big to jail. Thats why Bernie Sanders yesterday, after looking at those scripts, says that he stands behind her.

Although divided by their own candidate, some Republicans seized on the speeches as evidence of Clintons penchant for secrecy, in line with her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, one of the top advisers in Trumps embattled campaign, said the excerpts would have been a deathblow to Clinton had they come out during the Democratic primary.

Had those come out, Bernie Sanders would be the candidate now that wed be running against, not her. She fought so hard to keep those secret we now know why, he told Fox News Sunday.

She pointed out in one of them that she is a different person to them [the bankers] than she has to be politically, he continued. So we have two Hillary Clintons, which says we have a person who is a liar. Because thats what she is. I mean, over and over again.

Giuliani then tried to draw an equivalence between the recently leaked video of Trump bragging about groping women and the hacked emails. Both, he said, were wrong.

So weve got two candidates who have flaws, he said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/09/clinton-campaign-fends-off-questions-about-wikileaks-speech-excerpts


‘The end of Trump’: how Facebook deepens millennials’ confirmation bias

Facebook users are more likely to get news that fits political beliefs but younger voters dont necessarily realize how much the echo chamber affects them

HBO host John Oliver achieved the destruction of Donald Trump on 29 February 2016. At least, according to the Daily Beast.

Fansided, a popular social news aggregator, dates Trumps destruction at 1 August while the Daily Good called it for 21 March. Salon found no fewer than 13 glorious times that Oliver had destroyed the real estate tycoon.

Sharp-eyed consumers of the news might note that it is impossible to, as the dictionary says, put an end to the existence of something more than a single time. But for #NeverTrump Facebook users who love any content they see as bringing Trump down a peg, the formulaic headline is indicative of the Facebook media landscape: the most shareable, clickable and likable content on the site aligns strongly with its readerships pre-existing biases, assumptions and political affiliation.

For millennials who have never known an election without Facebook, the political landscape of the social media network has massive implications for the upcoming contest between Hillary Clinton and Trump not least of which because of Facebooks outsized influence on their exposure to political news.

Six out of every 10 millennials (61%) get their political news on Facebook, according to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, making the 1.7 billion-user social behemoth (which includes more than 200 million in the United States) the largest millennial marketplace for news and ideas in the world. But within Facebooks ecosystem exists a warren of walled gardens, intellectual biomes created by users whose interest in interacting with opposing political views and those who are them is nearly nonexistent.

Baby boomers are the most likely to see political content on Facebook that supports their own views, said Amy Mitchell, the director of journalism research at Pew Research Center. Thirty-one percent of baby boomers on Facebook who pay attention to political posts say the posts they see are mostly or always in line with their own views, higher than both Gen Xers and millennials.

But baby boomers are the least likely to get their political news from Facebook unlike millennials.

According to another Pew Research Center survey from 2014, consistent conservatives were twice as likely as the average Facebook user to say that posts about politics on Facebook were mostly or always in line with their own views, and that four in 10 consistent liberals say they have blocked or unfriended someone over political disagreements.

This creates what the New York Times Ross Douthat calls the Samantha Bee Problem, named after the late-night comedian whose unbridled criticism of fellow late-night comedians for not holding Trump accountable for past statements sparked a Samantha Bee Destroys headline-a-thon of its own. The widespread sharing of Bees segment, Douthat hypothesizes, is indicative of political chambers that inured Facebook audiences to conversations solely with those who share their opinions.

Among millennials, especially, Douthat argues, theres a growing constituency for whom rightwing ideas are so alien or triggering, leftwing orthodoxy so pervasive and unquestioned, that supporting a candidate like Hillary Clinton looks like a needless form of compromise.

That confirmation bias the psychological tendency for people to embrace new information as affirming their pre-existing beliefs and to ignore evidence that doesnt is seeing itself play out in new ways in the social ecosystem of Facebook. Unlike Twitter or real life where interaction with those who disagree with you on political matters is an inevitability, Facebook users can block, mute and unfriend any outlet or person that will not further bolster their current worldview.

Even Facebook itself sees the segmentation of users along political lines on its site – and synchronizes it not only with the posts users see, but with the advertisements theyre shown.

Test it out yourself: Go to facebook.com/ads/preferences on your browser and click the Lifestyle and Culture tab under the Interests banner. You see the box titled US Politics? Its followed with a parenthetical notation of your political alignment, from Very Conservative to Very Liberal.

Platforms and traffic-hungry websites have followed the behavioral lead of Facebooks users. News sources largely aggregators of video clips and interviews from other sites that barely exist beyond the sharing economy of Facebook have arisen as major players in the sites political news sphere.

Sites such as US Uncut, Occupy Democrats, Addicting Info, Make America Great and The Other 98% may barely have homepages, but their Facebook pages are rich with millions of followers and sky-high engagement in many cases higher than many mainstream news outlets combined. Occupy Democrats, a far-left page popular with supporters of onetime Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, has 3.8 million likes on its Facebook page. MSNBC, another left-leaning outlet with far wider reach outside of Facebook, has a mere 1.6 million.

Not everyone sees the proliferation of openly ideological outlets that meet the needs of openly ideological friend circles as evidence that millennials are more extreme in their confirmation bias than prior generations.

I dont see sufficient evidence to buy the argument about siloing and confirmation bias, Jeff Jarvis,a professor at the City University of New Yorks graduate school of journalism said. That is a presumption about the platforms because we in media think we do this better. More important, such presumptions fundamentally insult young people. For too long, old media has assumed that young people dont care about the world.

Facebook is, after all, a reflection of its users wants and behavior its not Mark Zuckerbergs fault people seek out like-minded news sources to buttress their political beliefs. Before Facebooks walled gardens came the cable news wars between left-leaning MSNBC and right-leaning Fox News, and before that, local newspapers that catered to the certain wings of a citys population. (Think the Washington Post versus the Washington Times.)

Newspapers, remember, came from the perspective of very few people: one editor, really, Jarvis said. Facebook comes with many perspectives and gives many; as Zuckerberg points out, no two people on Earth see the same Facebook.

The onus, then may be on millennials and all Facebook users to proactively seek out news sources outside of their ideological comfort zone.

Yes, Facebook shows us what our friends like, Jarvis said. But if you have smart friends, chances are they will send you to smart things. Further, arguments online show the existence of opposing views, so I dont buy that young people are unaware of other sides.

Journalisms job is to inform society. If society is ill-informed, it is our failure.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/01/millennials-facebook-politics-bias-social-media


Bernie Sanders goes to bat for Clinton in her fight to win over young voters

Former rivals star power palpable as he campaigns for Hillary Clinton at University of New Hampshire, in a state he won in the Democratic primary

Hillary Clinton turned to the magnetic power of Bernie Sanders on Wednesday as her battle continued to persuade younger voters to rally to her cause.

For months, Sanders and Clinton were often irascible rivals, as she edged towards the Democratic nomination and he continued to inspire a movement of millennials.

And on campus in the battleground state of New Hampshire, Sanders star power was still there for all to see as hundreds of young voters formed a line snaking across campus, which left many to make do with a spot in an overflow room as he spoke.

But while Sanders has appeared in the past to be a reluctant cheerleader, with the race now entering its final six weeks, he left the audience in no doubt it was imperative Americans elect Clinton as their next president.

All of you know that this is a very tight election. And in fact, New Hampshire could decide the outcome, he said. So I am asking you here not only to vote for Secretary Clinton, but to work hard, to get your uncles and your aunts, to get your friends to vote.

His words were delivered with genuine passion in the state where he chalked up his first primary win, setting off his remarkable underdog run.

Hillary
Audience members wear campaign buttons at the Durham, New Hampshire, rally. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters

Clinton and Sanders campaigned together at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, where they detailed a plan on college affordability before a crowd of roughly 1,200. The event marked their second joint appearance on the campaign trail, following Sanders endorsement of Clinton at a rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in July.

The Vermont senator, whose grassroots campaign for the Democratic nomination drew crowds of tens of thousands of people across the country, emphasized the importance of the election by invoking the names of billionaire Republican donors who were dedicating a combined total of more than $1bn on the 2016 race.

If anybody tells you that this election is not important, you ask them why the Koch bothers and Sheldon Adelson and other billionaires are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to elect their candidates, Sanders said.

This election is enormously important for the future of our country. It is imperative that we elect Hillary Clinton as our next president.

Sanders then joined Clinton for a discussion on their joint proposal, which would provide free tuition to public universities and colleges for middle- and working-class families.

The staying power of Sanders as a powerful voice among young voters has remained a palpable factor in the election. While the majority of Sanders voters have rallied behind Clinton, polling has found millennials still uneven in their support for the former secretary of state. One recent survey found that a third of voters under the age of 30 said they planned to vote for third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.

Sanders has increased his presence on the campaign trail, along with other high-profile surrogates such as first lady Michelle Obama and Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, with a focus on courting college students whose priorities include issues such as student loans, campaign finance reform and climate change.

The boost Sanders can help to bring was evident on Wednesday, and in her own remarks, Clinton praised Sanders and his campaign as having energized so many young people. Although the contest was at times bitter, the Democratic nominee sought to draw a contrast between the dynamics within the two parties.

Im proud of the primary campaign that Bernie and I ran, Clinton said. We ran a campaign about issues, not insults.

Sanders
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders acknowledge the audience a campaign stop at the University Of New Hampshire. Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP

She added that Sanders was one of the most passionate champions for equality and justice who I have ever seen, and referred to the senator as her friend.

Clinton shared her own personal experience with student loan debt, but noted she was fortunate to have found a job after college and did not face the same circumstances as families today who grapple with rising tuition costs. Declaring Sanders as absolutely right on college affordability, Clinton said she looked forward to working with the senator to pass and implement their plan if elected president.

Under the proposal, families earning less than $125,000 a year would be eligible for free tuition from public colleges and universities. Clintons platform, dubbed revolutionary by Sanders, would also enable students to refinance their college debt and make community college free.

To those perhaps reticent to embrace her, Clinton urged them not simply to consider her name but the issues on which she has campaigned.

Highlighting climate change as an example, Clinton said she never thought in her July acceptance speech at the Democratic national convention that she would have to include the sentence: I believe in science.

Its not just my name on the ballot, Clinton said. Every issue you care about it think about it, because in effect its on the ballot, too.

The next 40 days will determine the next 40 years.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/28/bernie-sanders-hillary-clinton-new-hampshire-rally


Donald Trump’s debate transcript: analyzing his claims issue by issue

The Republican nominee made a lot of definitive-sounding statements on Monday night, on everything from race and policing to Isis and cyber warfare

Republican nominee Donald Trump made a lot of definitive-sounding claims in the first presidential debate on Monday night. We unfurled some of those long-winded statements and took a closer look, issue by issue.

On race and policing

We have endorsements from, I think, almost every police group, very I mean, a large percentage of them in the United States.

Trump was endorsed last week by the Fraternal Order of Police, the nations largest union of rank-and-file officers, after eagerly courting the group. He met with leadership and completed an extensive questionnaire about his views, while Hillary Clinton demurred on both counts.

His draconian plans have, however, alarmed many others in law enforcement. Earlier this year, a coalition of dozens of police chiefs and prosecutors from across the US urged Trump in an open letter to instead pursue a policy of reducing arrests and imprisoning fewer Americans.

Though this may seem counterintuitive, we know from our experience as law enforcement officials that over-relying on incarceration does not deter crime, said the letter.

I think maybe theres a political reason why you cant say it, but I really dont believe in New York City, stop-and-frisk, we had 2,200 murders, and stop-and-frisk brought it down to 500 murders. Five hundred murders is a lot of murders. Its hard to believe, 500 is like supposed to be good?

New York Citys annual murder total did peak in 1990 at about 2,200, amid a crack cocaine epidemic and increased gun crime. It did fall sharply, however, under the Democratic mayor David Dinkins, who hired thousands more police officers and focused on the kind of community policing Hillary Clinton championed during the debate.

This steep decline continued under Dinkinss successor, Republican Rudolph Giuliani, who from 1994 ushered in an aggressive, data-driven form of policing including the stop-and-frisk tactic of halting and searching pedestrians for weapons or drugs on a lower standard of proof than the probable cause typically needed. Mayor Michael Bloomberg carried this on.

Analysts, however, have not found clear evidence Giuliani-style policing was responsible for New Yorks crime reduction. Crime fell elsewhere in the US through the 1990s during an economic boom.

As the NYPDs top spokesman pointed out during Mondays debate, murder and violent crime continued to fall even as police drastically cut down on stops as a judge ruled in 2013 the tactic was being applied unconstitutionally. Murder numbers in New York did rise last year, as in other major cities, but are on course to fall again in 2016. Even in 2015, the total stood at 352 30% less than the 500 total Trump cites. JS

On climate change

Clinton: Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think its real.

Trump: I did not. I did not. I do not say that.

Trump did say that in November 2012: The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.

In January, Trump was asked about this tweet and said obviously I joke, but his dismissal of climate science is consistent, if not always as outlandish as suggesting that it is a Chinese conspiracy. Climate change has been variously described by the real estate developer as a hoax, bullshit and a canard.

She talks about solar panels. We invested in a solar company, our country. That was a disaster. They lost plenty of money on that one. Now, look, Im a great believer in all forms of energy, but were putting a lot of people out of work.

Trump is referencing Solyndra, a California-based manufacturer of solar cells that got a $535m federal government loan and then went bankrupt. The company is regularly touted by Republicans as evidence that the government shouldnt subsidize clean energy (which somewhat ignores the enormous support received by fossil fuels).

Trump has donned a miners helmet when campaigning in West Virginia, casting himself as a friend of coal and the key to its renaissance. But his promise to bring back coal jobs will be a tough one to keep, given the market, as well as environmental, obstacles it faces. OM

On women

You know, Hillary is hitting me with tremendous commercials. Some of its said in entertainment. Some of its said somebody whos been very vicious to me, Rosie ODonnell, I said very tough things to her, and I think everybody would agree that she deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her.

But you want to know the truth? I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself, I cant do it. I just cant do it. Its inappropriate. Its not nice. But she spent hundreds of millions of dollars on negative ads on me, many of which are absolutely untrue. Theyre untrue. And theyre misrepresentations. And I will tell you this, Lester, its not nice. And I dont deserve that.

This was Trumps response after Clinton dug into him for calling women pigs, slobs, and dogs, opposing equal pay laws, and mocking a Latina Miss Universe winner, Alicia Machado, by calling her Miss Housekeeping and Miss Piggy.

Clintons campaign has spent millions although not multiple hundreds of millions, not yet on ads against Trump that are not very nice. But his claims that the ads are untrue are hard to square with the reality that many of Clintons ads almost exclusively consist of audio of Trumps own remarks.

On Tuesday morning, Trump explained what he meant by his cryptic remarks that he wanted to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family.

I was talking about the affairs the many affairs that Bill Clinton had, he said on Fox and Friends. When she hit me at the end with the women, I was going to hit her with her husbands women. In that vein, in the run-up to Monday nights debate, Trump threatened to invite Gennifer Flowers famous for sleeping with Hillarys husband in the 1980s as his guest. Trump explained he held back because the Clintons daughter, Chelsea, was in the auditorium. Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Trumps running mate, said on Tuesday he was so proud of Trumps restraint.

This also marks the second time, in a presidential debate, that Trump made excuses for his name-calling by saying he was talking about Rosie ODonnell. In August 2015, when Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked Trump to explain why people should vote for someone who has called women fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals, Trump joked, Only Rosie ODonnell. Trump clearly feels this to be exonerating. Last summer, as he faced criticism for his exchange with Kelly, Trump noted, That was the biggest applause in the evening actually, so it was sort of interesting.

On Monday night, Trump endured Clintons accusations of sexism by muttering, I never said that and I didnt say that. On Tuesday morning, Trump could be found gamely criticizing Machados weight on Fox News. MR

On national security

Well, I have to say that, you know, for what Secretary Clinton was saying about nuclear with Russia, shes very cavalier in the way she talks about various countries. But Russia has been expanding their they have a much newer capability than we do. We have not been updating from the new standpoint.

I looked the other night. I was seeing B-52s, theyre old enough that your father, your grandfather could be flying them. We are not we are not keeping up with other countries. I would like everybody to end it, just get rid of it. But I would certainly not do first strike.

I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, its over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. I cant take anything off the table.

Russia is modernizing its nuclear forces, particularly with new intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuke-launching submarines. Both programs are years from completion and follow a generation-long lag in Russian military modernization following the collapse of the Soviet Union .

By contrast, the Obama administration has begun a $1tn modernization of US nuclear forces submarines, missiles and bombers slated to last 30 years. The upgrade has caused major concern within the arms-control community. The planned US investment in nuclear forces is unrivaled by any other nuclear power, said Kingsman Reif, the director of disarmament at the Arms Control Association.

Beyond that, Trump in three short sentences, reversed decades of declared US nuclear policy and then appeared to reverse himself.

I certainly would not do first strike is a commonsense position that the complexities of nuclear deterrence render a potentially catastrophic declaration, since it creates doubt among both allies and adversaries about the USs commitment to its ultimate weapon. Nevertheless, it has been the undeclared policy of the United States for generations. Barack Obama reportedly mulled adopting the position Trump stated on Monday, only to have his cabinet secretaries express alarm at a shift that might worry allies located near a resurgent Russia and aggressive North Korea. The proposal appears dead within the Obama administration.

But then Trump seemed to revert to the defense establishments consensus position, that being prepared for such a war represents the most effective deterrent to facing a nuclear holocaust. I cant take anything off the table is a formation far more consistent with traditional US nuclear policy, though Trumps diametrically opposed public musings on nuclear weapons raise new questions about how a President Trump would steward the USs deadliest arsenal. SA

On guns and the NRA

The African American community because look, the community within the inner cities has been so badly treated. Theyve been abused and used in order to get votes by Democrat politicians, because thats what it is. Theyve controlled these communities for up to 100 years.

Conservatives often blame Democratic mayors when talking about inner city violence. But a FiveThirtyEight analysis of 2015 murder trends found murders rose in big cities led by both Democrats and Republicans, and that murders increased at about the same pace in both sets of cities.

When a person is on a watch list or a no-fly list, and I have the endorsement of the NRA, which Im very proud of. These are very, very good people, and theyre protecting the second amendment. But I think we have to look very strongly at no-fly lists and watch lists.

The National Rifle Association has been one of Trumps strongest supporters. The group opposes legislation that would simply bar people on government terror watch lists from buying guns a position shared by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Polls have found a majority of Americans support no fly, no buy legislation, even though groups on both the left and right have criticized the measure as an infringement of civil liberties.

Does Trump agree with the NRA and the ACLU, or does he agree with Clinton that people on watch lists simply should not be allowed to buy guns? His comments last night were, once again, ambiguous. After the Orlando shooting at Pulse Nightclub, Trump tweeted he was going to meet with the NRA about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns.

Later, a Trump campaign spokeswoman said that Trump stands with the NRA on the issue, and the NRAs chief lobbyist told ABC News there is not a difference between what Mr Trump is saying and what the NRAs position is. Thats a media-created diversion there. LB

On Isis

Shes telling us how to fight Isis. Just go to her website. She tells you how to fight Isis on her website. I dont think General Douglas MacArthur would like that too much See, youre telling the enemy everything you want to do. No wonder youve been fighting no wonder youve been fighting Isis your entire adult life.

Trump accuses Clinton of giving away her strategy to Isis and claims that second world war general Douglas MacArthur, whom he often likes to cite, would not approve. He states Clinton had been fighting Isis all her adult life, even though she turned 18 in 1965 and Isis took on its present form in 2013. DS

On cyber warfare

I dont think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. Shes saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I dont maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?

Despite strong evidence linking Russia to the hack of the Democratic National Committee, Trump cannot resist mounting a defence of Moscow, and by extension President Vladimir Putin. He tries to muddy the waters by trying to blame China without a shred of proof and then, incomprehensibly, somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds a remark that underlines his tendency to insult people who are overweight.

We have to get very, very tough on cyber and cyber warfare. It is it is a huge problem. I have a son. Hes 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers, its unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe its hardly doable.

Yet another comment from the school of the surreal. Trump referencing his son unfortunately echoes Jimmy Carter who, in 1980, said he spoke about nuclear arms control with his 12-year-old daughter, asking her what the most important issue was. DS

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/27/trump-debate-transcript-issues-facts


The Guardian view on the US presidential debate: Hillary needs a slogan to sum up what she stands for | Editorial

Editorial: Mondays television debate will be watched by 100 million Americans. The Democratic candidate should seize a chance to show she is motivated by the common good

When Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump square off on television next week it will be the largest audience of their long careers, which both have lived in the glare of limelight. More than 100 million Americans are expected to tune in on the evening of 26 September an astonishing viewership that would rank the event as among one of the most watched television broadcasts in US history. The rest have been Super Bowls. Mondays debate, 56 years to the day after the first televised duel between John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon, will almost certainly be aturning point in a turbulent election year inAmerica 12 months that have thrown into sharp relief the countrys deep polarisation and the breakdown of the Republican party. The course of debates can turn on personal defects, such as Richard Nixons five oclock shadow in 1960. The screen can magnify character flaws and highlight a candidates competence. Ronald Reagans much-quoted putdown of Jimmy Carter there you go again underlined the fact he was offering not only change, but opened viewers eyes tohis vision of America. Bill Clinton, then the insurgent outsider, pulled off the same trick in making then president George HW Bush look out of touch in 1992.

In this election the TV debate offers a chance for each candidate a chance to reset the narrative of their campaign. Mr Trump, a businessman-demagogue trading in crude economic populism, has less reason to do so. Last weeks terrorist attacks play into his claims that America is under siege. Democrat Hilary Clintons recent bout of pneumonia bolstered his nod-and-wink comments about her failing health. While Mrs Clinton has endured some of the worst weeks of her campaign, her Republican rival has been stealing headlines. While Mrs Clinton remains ahead in the polls, the momentum is with her rumour-mongering opponent. On paper Mrs Clinton should be able to swat away her opponent. She has the experience, the public policy competence and the chance to make history as the first female commander-in-chief of the most powerful nation on earth. She is also a better debater than retail politician.

The trouble with Mrs Clinton is twofold. One is biography. Thanks to being a public figure for decades, her positions today often contradict her publicly stated beliefs. Is she for intervention in Syria or not? Is she repudiating free trade deals she once championed or not? Does she want more government help in healthcare or not? Little wonder, perhaps, that key voter groups such as millennials fail to warm to Mrs Clinton. The second problem for the former first lady and ex-secretary of state is that she is the continuity candidate in this election. She promises more of the same.

Her opponent does not. Mr Trumps dog-whistle campaign has torn America apart along lines of race, gender and education. This is not just a break with the past, but threatens to splinter the country into warring parts. It would be a mistake to underestimate the real estate magnate. Mr Trumps skill is his appeal to reptilian instincts. These reflexive inherent tendencies developed in humans to override a brains more sophisticated emotional response in times of crisis. This may explain why Mr Trump favours chaos over stability. The billionaire is also an accomplished television performer, bringing out the inner reptile on 14 seasons of his US reality show The Apprentice. Cruel patter as entertainment was his trademark. In the Republican primaries he wiped out opponents used to playing by different rules.

What Trumpism projects is pretty clear: building a wall; taking on China; Americanism not globalism. Mrs Clinton seems to have a hundred carefully costed policies but not one eye-catching slogan. She radiates a sensible incrementalism. She campaigns in prose, leaving poetry to her predecessor. This is a mistake. She needs to focus on what is driving discontent in America: an economic system that no longer defuses high levels of inequality with opportunities for all. Mrs Clinton may argue that after years of watching their incomes go nowhere, Americas middle class finally got a big raise last year the first increase since 2007, the year before the Great Recession started. However, the middle classes remain poorer than in 2000. Thats 15 years of going backward. Mrs Clinton needs to find a resonant theme to sum up her policies: a Marshall Plan for the middle classes would not be a bad idea. Monday is her chance to show she is motivated by the common good. Mrs Clinton should seize it.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/22/the-guardian-view-on-the-us-presidential-debate-hillary-needs-a-slogan-to-sum-up-what-she-stands-for


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