Plan B as in Bernie?


Bernie Sanders rallies the faithful in Paducah, KY. Photo by Berry Craig

Bernie Sanders rallies the faithful in Paducah, KY.
Photo by Berry Craig

Is it possible that even die-hard Hillary Clinton Democrats might end up grudgingly grateful for Bernie Sanders?

She’s still the all-but-certain presidential nominee. But he could be the party’s Plan B if it turns out there’s really something to the Clinton email “scandal.”

Naturally, the Clinton campaign is downplaying that state department inspector general’s report which castigated her use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. Predictably, Trump has stepped up calling her “Crooked Hillary.”

A lot of Democratic rank-and-filers, including this union card-packing Sanders supporter, are of the we’re ‘Voting Blue No Matter Who'” persuasion. Though some of us Feel the Bern and others sport “Hillary for America” buttons, we’re all getting behind whoever wins the nomination.

Right now, we’re worried.

That ongoing FBI probe into Clinton’s emails scares us more than the watchdog’s report, which is bad enough.

It’s not clear how much political hay Trump and the Republicans can make off the report. The story will fade from the news–thought not from Trump commercials and campaign speeches–if the FBI investigation will, as some expect, fail to lead to criminal charges.

Meanwhile, Ed Kilgore of New York magazine suggests much of the “scandal” is media made.

His column is more proof, as if proof were needed, that the “liberal media” is a myth.

Kilgore faulted the media for its tendency toward false equivalency. The county is “drifting into a general election where important media sources seem to have decided that Clinton violating State Department email protocols and Trump openly threatening press freedoms, proudly championing war crimes, and cheerfully channeling misogyny and ethnic and racial grievances are of about the same order of magnitude.”

He cited an editorial in the Washington Post,  vilified by cold war conservatives as “Pravda on the Potomac” and still scorned by the right as a leader of the “liberal media” pack.

Headlined “Clinton’s inexcusable, willful disregard for the rules,” the editorial “hurled righteous thunderbolts at Clinton,” he wrote.

The author added: “Words like ‘inexcusable’ suggest that Clinton has all but disqualified herself from the presidency. But if the FBI disagrees, as most everyone expects, then the Post will have done yeoman’s service for that other major-party presidential nominee, and his effort to brand Clinton as ‘Crooked Hillary.’”

Kilgore conceded that John and Jane Q citizen don’t completely trust the all-but-certain Democratic nominee. (Polls show they don’t much trust Trump either.) “But a bigger concern ought to be that Trump fans credit him for ‘telling it like it is’ when the man is constantly repeating malicious gossip, lunatic conspiracy theories, ancient pseudo-scandals, and blatant falsehoods.”

Clinton may weather the storm, mostly media-made or otherwise. The FBI report may confirm her campaign’s claim that the email “scandal” was more of a tempest in a teapot than a hurricane.

But if the Feds say Clinton broke the law—though that’s evidently unlikely—we’ve got Plan Bernie. He’s ahead of Trump in most polls, though some pundits and political pros insist that’s because Trump and the Republicans have yet to vilify him like they have Clinton. Others say he really does have a better chance at beating Trump than Clinton has.

At any rate, the Republicans only have a Plan A in The Donald, a racist, sexist, nativist, misogynist, greed-is-good, union-busting demagogue who is the Real McCoy scandal of 2016.

Trump’s NAFTA baloney


trunprey220Either Donald Trump is flat fibbing about the North American Free Trade Agreement or he’s clueless about the deal unions say has cost thousands of American jobs.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee wants voters—especially working stiffs–to believe he’ll ditch the trade deal when he’s president.

Trump is short on specifics about how he’d put the kibosh on NAFTA. So let’s get specific.

A President Trump couldn’t repeal NAFTA by himself. Only Congress could. So is Trump just trying to dupe John and Jane Q Citizen into voting for him, or does he really not know how government works?

Either way, the odds of getting rid of NAFTA—or successfully renegotiating the trade pact—would be better under Hillary Clinton, Trump’s almost certain Democratic foe–or Bernie Sanders should he somehow edge Clinton at the finish line.

First some background: Republican President George H.W. Bush finished completing the deal with Canada and Mexico about three months before the 1992 presidential election. Bush was seeking a second term, but he lost to Democrat Bill Clinton.

The spouse of this year’s all-but-certain Democratic presidential nominee, Clinton got behind NAFTA. In 1993, Congress passed the trade deal, and he signed it.

The Democrats enjoyed majorities in the House and Senate, but the Republicans got the NAFTA bill passed. Most Democrats voted against it. The House endorsed NAFTA 234-200; the Senate 61-38.

In the House, 156 Democrats voted “nay” and 102 voted “yea.” Republicans favored the NAFTA bill 132-43. (The naysayers included an independent Vermont congressman named Sanders.)

The Senate split similarly: 28 Democrats opposed the legislation, and 27 were for it. Republicans favored NAFTA 34-10.

Okay, back to the present, where the GOP controls both houses of Congress. Most House and Senate Republicans still favor trade pacts like NAFTA, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which unions also vehemently reject.

President Barack Obama, a Democrat, favors the TPP, which he says will really create more jobs. Most Democratic lawmakers side with unions and against the president.

Here’s the bottom line: If Trump is elected president, the GOP will almost certainly retain its majorities in both chambers, if not boost them. So the chance of NAFTA’s demise with a Trump presidency is virtually zero.

On the other hand, if Clinton or Sanders wins, the Democrats are apt to increase their House and Senate numbers. If the she or he wins big, the Democrats might take back the Senate and the House—or at least significantly whittle down the GOP’s margin the lower chamber.

The TPP would be toast, and NAFTA would be in big trouble.

Admittedly, Hillary Clinton backed NAFTA when the Big Dog was president. She has since changed her mind.

“Hillary has said for almost a decade that we need to renegotiate NAFTA, and she still believes that today,” maintains a Clinton campaign online Factsheet. “And she would review all of our trade agreements with the same scrutiny.”

The Factsheet also declares that Clinton would “say ‘no’ to new trade agreements that don’t meet her high bar – including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Hillary will hit pause and say ‘no’ to new trade agreements unless they create American jobs, raise wages, and improve our national security. After looking at the final terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, including what it contains on currency manipulation and its weak rules of origin standard for what counts as a car that can get treaty benefits, she opposed the agreement because it did not meet her test. And she will hold every future trade agreement to the same high standard.”

Trump, too has changed his tune. Before he ran for president, he was fine with outsourcing. While he never tires of trashing U.S. companies that ship jobs and production abroad, he’s a big-time outsourcer himself.

Trump flip-flops almost every time he opens his mouth, but he’s shown uncharacteristic consistency on unions. He’s anti-union.

He says he prefers “right to work” states to non-RTW states. Both Clinton and Sanders are staunchly anti-RTW.

While Trump insists union members love him, he’s determined to keep his hotel workers in Las Vegas from having a union. Clinton and Sanders support workers’ right to unionize.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called Trump “a bigot. From his anti-American proposal to ban Muslims to his horrendous comments about women and immigrants, Trump is running on hate. It seems the only group he won’t criticize is the KKK.”

Added Trumka, a former president of the United Mine Workers of America: “Those statements and positions are bad enough. But what’s getting less attention is how Donald Trump really feels about working people…

“First, Trump loves right to work. He said it is “better for the people” and his position is ‘100 percent.’ Meanwhile, he is fighting tooth and nail against workers at his hotel in Las Vegas.

“Second, Trump was a major financial backer of Scott Walker and says he admired the way Walker took on public unions in Wisconsin.

“Finally, and most disturbingly, Trump says our wages are already too high. Can you believe that? Trump is advocating the polar opposite of our raising wages agenda.

You see, Trump says he’s with the American working class, but when you look close, it’s just hot air.”

Trump’s trousers blaze anew


obamaguns215Donald Trump ought to add Nomex pants for politicians to his clothing line and take the first pair for himself.

Not a NASCAR fan? Nomex is that flame resistant material in race car drivers’ suits.

Anyway, Trump’s trousers blazed anew when he said, “Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the 2nd Amendment.”

Politifact challenged Trump to show where she said it. Mum was the word from the Trump campaign, so Politifact judged Trump’s bloviation false.

At least The Donald is consistent. The presumptive GOP nominee’s campaign is famous for flat-out-lies, half-truths, deception and deceit. (Okay, he’s not the first politician to torture the truth–hence the need for mass produced Nomex pants for pols.)

Anyway, there’s a theory in politics—favored by demagogues like Trump–that if you tell a lie often enough and bold enough, you can sucker the body politic into believing it.

So it is with Republicans and guns. They take extra careful aim at union members who are partial to hunting and other shooting sports.

“[The gun issue] is the one thing that will spin the blue-collar union member away from his union,” former Wisconsin State AFL-CIO researcher Joanne Ricca quoted ex-National Rifle Association bigwig Neal Knox in her study, “Politics in America: The Right Wing Attack on the America Labor Movement.”

Since President Jimmy Carter ran for re-election in 1980, the GOP and the NRA have been yelping that the Democrats want to seize everybody’s shooting irons.

They’ve yet to do so.

Ah, but the NRA keeps warning about that “slippery slope” on guns. The ground is still level and dry.

Want the real lowdown on Clinton and guns? Go to her official campaign website.

The leader and favorite for the Democratic presidential nod wants to “strengthen background checks and close dangerous loopholes in the current system.” She’s for holding “irresponsible dealers and manufacturers accountable” and keeping “guns out of the hands of terrorists, domestic abusers, other violent criminals, and the severely mentally ill.”

The website acknowledges that “gun ownership is part of the fabric of many law-abiding communities,” and adds, “too many families in America have suffered from gun violence. About 33,000 Americans are killed by guns each year. That is unacceptable. It is a rebuke to this nation we love.”

Nowhere does Clinton even come close to saying she wants to repeal the Second Amendment or send in the feds to grab the guns of law-abiding citizens.

By the way, before the NRA-endorsed Trump ran for president, he favored an assault weapons ban and said people should have to wait a little longer to buy a gun so their backgrounds could be more thoroughly checked.

Again, Trump is showing consistency—he’s flip-flopped on a whole bunch of issues. Click here, here, here and here.

You can even buy “Trump 2016” flip-flops. I’m not sure if they’re pro- or anti-Trump footwear. Either way, they’d go great with The Donald’s Nomex pants–which would, of course, probably be made in China or some other cheap-labor country like so much of the professed anti-outsourcer’s line of duds.

Mule trader Trump



trumphat210You’re at the bargaining table.

The lead management negotiator slides over a piece of paper. “You’re going to love what I’m proposing,” the guy says.

“Honest. It’s so good you don’t even have to check it out. Don’t read it. Just trust me. You know I want to do right by my workers.”

What’s that you say? “That dog won’t hunt?” (Or you might use a two-word phrase that connects an uncastrated  male bovine and what he plops in the pasture.)

Well, Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is shooting unions the same “trust me” line.

Where to start? How about Trump’s oft-repeated promise to stop outsourcing, which he had no problem with before he ran for president. Oh, yeah, he’s a big-time outsourcer himself. Click hereherehere and here.

Trump says he’d make American firms quit sending jobs and production to cheap labor countries by smacking them with hefty tariffs, or import taxes. He’s proposed a 45 percent tariff  on goods imported from China and a 35 percent tariff on Ford cars and parts made in Mexico and sold stateside.

Here’s the problem: A president can’t impose any federal tax. Only Congress can. (Remember “No taxation without representation” from history class?)

The odds of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan going for an import tax—or any tax hike—aren’t even slim and none. They’re none and none.

If Trump wins, the Republicans will almost certainly hold the House and Senate and, more likely, enhance their majorities in both chambers.

I’d bet the farm Trump realizes a president can’t levy a tax. So he’s free to bloviate about sticking up for American workers by sticking it to outsources with punitive tariffs knowing there’s no way he can do it by himself and no way a GOP Congress would pass them.

But he’s counting on working stiffs, especially those who’ve lost their good union jobs to outsourcing, to trust him and to swallow his sucker bait, hook, line and sinker.

Oh, Donald Trump brand suits and ties are made in China.  Does anybody think he really wants a tax that would hit hit him hard in the wallet?

Anyway, Trump also says union members love him. Never mind that he’s fighting, tooth and nail, to keep his Las Vegas hotel workers from unionizing. Forget that Trump prefers “right to work” states to non-RTW states.

Boosting the minimum wage? Trump was against it. Now he wants to “let the states decide” whether to raise it. Here, the guy who claims to be a straight shooter is passing the buck, big time.

Trump is a lot like the Kentucky mule trader of old. He’s happy to show his teeth, but not the mule’s.

I’m for Bernie Sanders and closed primaries

AFT Local 1360

I Felt the Bern Tuesday, but I don’t share my candidate’s disdain for closed primaries.

Sanders rallies the faithful in Paducah. Photo by Berry Craig

Sanders rallies the faithful in Paducah.
Photo by Berry Craig

Sen. Bernie Sanders, according to a Washington Post story, said Hillary Clinton won in Kentucky because it’s one of those states with “a closed primary, something I am not all that enthusiastic about, where independents are not allowed to vote.”

With her squeaker victory in my home state, Clinton is 11-for-11 in closed primaries.

Anyway, Sanders challenged the Democratic party to “do the right thing and open its doors and let into the party people who are prepared to fight for economic and social change,” the story also said.

This left-leaning, union card-packing Democrat and lifelong Kentuckian is delighted Sanders, a Vermont independent, switched to my party to run for president. I’ve been a Sanders fan for years. I hope he stays a Democrat.

I’m not what some Clinton supporters scorn as a “Berniebot.” I know my candidate is losing because Secretary Clinton is getting more votes, not doing Sanders dirty.

Charlie Pierce, the sometimes irascible—like Bernie and me—Esquire columnist—also voted for Sanders. “But if anybody thinks that, somehow, he is having the nomination ‘stolen’ from him, they are idiots,” he recently wrote.

If—okay, when—she gets the nomination, Clinton will get my support and vote.

Meanwhile, I’m happy to see Sanders forcing Clinton to tack to the left–back toward my party’s New Deal and Great Society roots. FDR handily carried Kentucky four times–with the votes of my late maternal grandparents. Bobo and Granddadden carried union cards, too.

At the same time, I don’t see anything undemocratic about closed primaries in which Democrats go to the polls and nominate Democrats—and Republicans nominate Republicans.

It’s no secret that in open primary states, some Democrats vote for Republicans out of mischief, and vice versa.

I imagine in some open primary states, more than a few Democrats voted for Donald Trump, figuring he’d be a pushover in the general election—a decision they may come to rue. Evidently, some Trump supporters in West Virginia voted for Sanders to get back at Clinton.

I remember in 2008 right wing radio’s Rush Limbaugh urged his Republican Dittoheads in open primary states to vote for Clinton over Barack Obama to prolong the fight for the Democratic nomination, thereby hurting the party. Limbaugh called his plan “Operation Chaos” and suggested resurrecting it against Sanders “depending on how the Democratic hierarchy seeks to treat him.”

Such “tactical voting” is legal. But it subverts the purpose of a primary: to let rank-and-file party members—not party bigwigs in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms–choose their party’s nominees.

“Not allowed to vote?” In states with closed primaries, independents choose to disenfranchise themselves by registering as independents. They are, of course, free to vote for whomever they wish in general elections.

So here’s a little constructive criticism for my candidate who is also one of my favorite lawmakers in Washington: Complaining about closed primary states where you are 0-for-11 sounds like sour grapes. (My wife the Clinton supporter says Sanders’ cantankerousness reminds her of her senior citizen spouse of going on 38 years.)