Friday, September 30, 2016

A Look Back at Hillary Clinton's 2008 Campaign Strategy

It's always interesting to look back in time and see what politicians that are running for office were doing during previous campaigns.  In the case of Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign, as we all know, she hung on until the bitter end, suspending her campaign on June 7, 2008 with this speech:

By March 2008, it had become quite apparent that Barack Obama was going to be the Democratic nominee for president, however, Hillary Clinton hung in there and, as you'll see in this posting, her campaign team was ready to get "down and dirty" when it came to winning the nomination for her.

As background, the author of the following weekly strategic review for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign was Mark Penn.  Mr. Penn has had a long involvement with the Clinton family and their association with American politics as stated on his website:

"He is also known as the strategist for and creator of well-known campaigns and ads, helping reelect President Bill Clinton and his move to the political center, devising then Senator Hillary Clinton’s successful “Upstate strategy,” creating Tony Blair’s “Forward not Back” campaign in 2005 and the “3AM” ad in the 2008 Presidential primaries, and led the team on Microsoft’s hugely successful 2014 Super Bowl ad when he headed advertising there. 

Penn has been a senior adviser to global corporate and political leaders including Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, Bill Ford, U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Bill Clinton."

He also claims to have helped elect over 25 heads of state around the globe.  His involvement with Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential cycle included serving as her Chief Campaign Strategist.

Now, let's look at the memorandum from Mark Penn to Senator Hillary Clinton dated March 19, 2007.  This first page shows the results of the most recent polling at the time notes that Barack Obama has the highest favourable across the board while Hillary Clinton has the highest favourable with Democrats, however, it does note that Obama's support is "soft":

Here's the second page which notes that one of Obama's weaknesses is his "lack of American roots":

Here's the third page which details Barack Obama's "lack of American roots" and how the Clinton campaign can use that perception to Hillary Clinton's advantage:

Note that the author states that "...his roots to basic American values and culture are at the best limited" and that he is "...not at his centre, fundamentally American in his thinking and his values."  By way of comparison, he notes that every speech that Hillary gives "...should contain the line that you were born in the middle of American to the middle class in the middle of the last century" and that she should talk about her "deeply American values that she grew up with, learned as a child and that drive you today".

On page four, we see the interesting concept that a "vast right and left wing conspiracy" was set up to "tear Hillary down":

This is reminiscent of Donald Trump and his concerns about the validity of the vote in 2016, isn't it?  It's even more interesting to note that Mr. Penn was concerned about how the "left (was) hell-bent on proving Clinton fatigue, and everyday they dredge up muck rather that (sic) look at Hillary and what she has accomplished.".

For completeness sake, here are the final pages of the eight page memorandum:

I do like the "Obama is all sizzle and no steak" reference on page five and the fact that her Chief Campaign Strategist wants Hillary Clinton to be "as likeable as possible", also on page five.  

With Donald Trump's recent comments on birtherism and his laying of the blame for the genesis of that entire movement on Hillary Clinton's shoulders, this memo shows us that, while Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign wasn't directly responsible for questioning the current president's American roots, it was certainly willing to skirt the margins of the degree of his "Americanness" and remind them that he was not as American as she is.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Donald Trump on the War in Iraq

While the first debate with Hillary Clinton would have lead viewers and voters to believe that Donald Trump fully backed the war with Iraq, here is a clip from January 2003 showing that his support for the actions in Iraq was lukewarm at best:

It is pretty obvious that his backing was far less certain than Hillary Clinton's October 2002 Senate vote on House Joint Resolution 114 (Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002) which gave President George Bush blanket authority to take whatever actions he deemed necessary to put an end to Iraq's supposed accumulation of weapons of mass destruction.  For completeness sake, here is a screen capture showing the votes of all members of the Senate:

Apparently, the truth depends on your perspective in the 2016 presidential election cycle.

Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and America's Billionaire Political Donors

Have you ever wondered which presidential candidate America's billionaires are supporting during the 2016 election cycle?  Well, wonder no more.  When you are looking at this data, please keep in mind that these billionaire donors also donate money to other Democratic or Republican Party recipients including PACs, Congressional races and state political wings so their donations to the candidates generally represent a very small portion of their total political donations.  For example, while Warren Buffett has only donated $2,700 to Hillary Clinton, he has donated over $132,000 to otters Democratic candidates and committees.  

Here is a listing of the top ten America's billionaire donors (in order of wealth) who have donated funds to Hillary Clinton's campaign and how much they have donated so far in this cycle:

A very significant portion of Ms. Clinton's billionaire-sourced funding has come from two individuals; George Soros and James Simons who have donated just short of $19 million between the two of them.  As well, looking in detail at donor data according to Open Secrets, Alice Walton of Walmart fame, has donated a whole $20 to Donald Trump's campaign.  That would buy a couple of Chinese made t-shirts at one of her stores!  I guess you have to play both sides of the political spectrum, just in case.

Here is a listing of the top ten America's billionaire donors (in order of wealth) who have donated funds to Donald Trump's campaign and how much they have donated so far in this cycle:

Unfortunately, Bradley Hughes Sr. doesn't quite make the list, missing the top ten by a mere $100 million.  Mr. Hughes, founder of American Homes 4 Rent, has given Mr. Trump $449,000, the top billionaire Trump donor.  As significant as his donation is, it would only put him in fourth place among Hillary Clinton's pantheon of billionaire donors, well behind her first, second and third place donors.

Despite the fact that Donald Trump is one of their billionaire peers, it's quite interesting to see that America's billionaires appear to be reluctant backers of one of their own.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Hillary Clinton and the Flawed Concept of Open Government

You probably don't remember this but back in September 2014, President Obama spoke at the Open Government Partnership Meeting held at the United Nations Building in New York City:

Here are some key quotes in case you don't want to listen to the entire 11 minute speech:

"Three years ago, the United States and seven other nations launched this Open Government Partnership to represent the other side of that equation -- because when citizens demand progress, governments need to be able to respond.  And in a new millennium flush with technology that allows us to connect with a tweet or a text, citizens rightly demand more responsiveness, more openness, more transparency, more accountability from their governments. 

In just three short years, this partnership has grown from eight nations to 64.  It has helped to transform the way governments serve their citizens.  Together, we have made more than 2,000 commitments -- improving how governments serve more than 2 billion people worldwide.  More citizens are petitioning their governments online, and more citizens are participating directly in policymaking.  More entrepreneurs are using open data to innovate and start new businesses.  More sunlight is shining on how tax dollars are spent.  And more governments are partnering with civil society to find new ways to expose corruption and improve good governance.

Here in the United States, we’ve been trying to lead by example.  We’re working to open up and share more data with entrepreneurs so they can pursue the new innovations and businesses that create jobs.  We’re working to modernize our Freedom of Information Act process so that it’s easier for Americans to use, so that they can see the workings of their government.  And today, I’m proud to announce a series of new commitments to expand and broaden our open government efforts....

So the achievements of these first three years are an example of the kind of steady, step-by-step progress that is possible for people and countries around the world.  No country has all the answers.  No country has perfect practices.  So we have to continue to find new ways to learn from each other, to share best practices, and most importantly, to turn the commitments that we’ve made into real and meaningful action that improves the daily lives of our citizens.  I’m confident that if we do that, we can ensure that we’re living up to the basic truth that governments exist to serve the people, and not the other way around. 

Let me just close by saying this:  When we started this, we didn’t know if it was going to work.  And I could not be more proud to see the enormous changes that are taking place all around the globe -- in small increments sometimes.  It’s not flashy.  It doesn’t generate a lot of headlines.  But the work you’re doing here is a steady wave of better government, and a steady wave of stronger civil societies.  And over time, that means that not only will individual countries be stronger, and not only will the citizens of those countries have greater opportunity and are less prone to experience injustice, but that translates into a world that is more just and more fair.  And that’s the kind of world that I want to leave my children." (my bold)

Ironically, according to the U.S. Department of State, the Open Government Partnership is "...a global effort to make governments better. Citizens want more transparent, effective and accountable governments—with institutions that empower citizens and are responsive to their aspirations."  The Open Government Partnership was founded on September 20, 2011 with eight founding nations; Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.  Here is is President Obama's pledge at the time:

"We pledge to be more transparent at every level -- because more information on government activity should be open, timely, and freely available to people. We need to pledge to engage more of our citizens in decision-making -- because it makes government more effective and responsive. We pledge to implement the highest standards of integrity -- because those in power must serve the people, not themselves. And we pledge to increase access to technology -- because in this digital century, access to information is a right that is universal."

During the opening session on April 17 and 18, 2012 in Brasilia, Brazil, here's what then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to say about the concept of open government:

"In the 21st century, the United States is convinced that one of the most significant divisions among nations will not be north/south, east/west, religious, or any other category so much as whether they are open or closed societies. We believe that countries with open governments, open economies, and open societies will increasingly flourish. They will become more prosperous, healthier, more secure, and more peaceful." (my bold)

Now that we have that background, let's look at the most recent information on the Hillary Clinton personal server issue released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on September 23, 2016.  At that time, the FBI released 189 pages of interviews that they held with various members of Clinton's DoS staff, trying to get to the bottom of what really happened during Ms. Clinton's tenure at the top of the Department of State pyramid:.  With the concept of Open Government in mind, here is what some of the declassified, formerly Top Secret pages released to the public look like:

The first two pages tell us absolutely nothing.  From the third page of the three that I have attached, we don't even know who the FBI interviewed on December 31, 2015 by unnamed/redacted Special Agents.  We don't even know how long the person worked for Ms. Clinton and what role they played in her office.  This kind of information release makes it particularly difficult for those of us that are mere mortals to actually get an accurate sense of Ms. Clinton's guilt or innocence

Now, if that's the Obama Administration's concept of "Open Government", it looks like America's participation in the Open Government Partnership is little more that a farce.  So much for the President's statement that the government "exists to serve the people, and not the other way around."