Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Democratic Bash Won’t Matter

The Wall Street Journal

Voters want change, and nobody in Philly has credibly argued Clinton can deliver.

By Karl Rove

Though the slogan for the first day of the Democratic National Convention was “United Together,” the party appeared to be anything but. Hacked emails dumped online by WikiLeaks had confirmed the worst suspicions of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s supporters. The Democratic establishment had been working all along to defeat their man, even discussing whether to plant stories that Mr. Sanders, who is Jewish, doesn’t believe in God.

After Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced her resignation, she was rewarded by being named an “honorary chair” for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Sanders supporters were hardly satisfied. On Monday the Bernie Bunch booed Ms. Wasserman Schultz off the stage. They demonstrated their frustration in the convention hall, and on Philadelphia’s streets, demanding votes on their candidate’s proposals on trade and the party’s rules.

The following day the comedian Sarah Silverman admonished Sandernistas from the podium: “To the Bernie-or-bust people, let me tell you, you are being ridiculous.” Standing at her side, Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) nodded as Sanders delegates screamed their disapproval. The two Hollywood intellectuals were followed on stage by Paul Simon, who warbled “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” Convention organizers should have tried to get the song’s original vocalist, Art Garfunkel.

These expressions of disaffection from the Democratic Party’s Birkenstock-and-granola wing are entertaining, yet they are not Team Clinton’s principal strategic challenge. Sure, some Bernieites could defect to the Green Party’s presidential nominee, Jill Stein, or even to Donald Trump. Others might skip the polls and spend Election Day composting. Still, Mrs. Clinton’s bigger problem is that she personifies the status quo in a year when the dynamic is strongly tilted toward change.

Gallup reported last week that only 17% of Americans are satisfied with the country’s condition, the same figure as at this point in 2008.

A July 13 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that a mere 18% of registered voters believe the country is “headed in the right direction,” while 73% said things are “off on the wrong track.”

The same survey found 56% favor someone for president “who will bring major changes to the way government operates even if it is not possible to predict what the changes may be.” Only 41% back “someone who will bring a steady approach to the way government operates even if it means fewer changes to how things are now.”

A June 26 Pew Research Center survey found that 24% of Americans are “satisfied with the way things are going in this country today”; 71% are “dissatisfied.” Fully 77% of voters say Mr. Trump would “change the way things work in Washington” (though only 33% think it would be for the better). Just 45% say Mrs. Clinton would bring change (and 20% say it would be for the better).

President Bill Clinton’s speech Tuesday night didn’t significantly alter this dynamic. Even his political talents couldn’t transform his wife into a “change-agent,” a phrase he repeatedly invoked. If anything, Mr. Clinton reminded voters that Mrs. Clinton has been a political fixture for decades.

Nor did Mr. Clinton do any favors when he described Hillary’s tenure as secretary of state and asked: “How does this square with the things that you heard at the Republican convention?” He said Republicans are running against “a cartoon,” thereby dismissing concerns about private email servers, America’s retreat from global leadership, the rise of Islamic State, and the disasters in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Russia and beyond.

Speeches Wednesday by President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were equally unlikely to help Mrs. Clinton. Instead they added to the impression that she represents a third term for their policies, especially as far as they extolled their administration’s record. The more they claim the economy is good, the country strong, and the world safe, the more disconnected they appear to swing voters.

The White House is telling reporters the president will actively campaign for Mrs. Clinton and Democratic candidates, raising funds starting next week and traveling throughout October. This will only reinforce that the race is a choice between the status quo with Mrs. Clinton and change with Mr. Trump.

Team Clinton’s hope lies in convincing voters that Mr. Trump will bring only chaos. That’s where she should put her emphasis Thursday night and after. The Democratic convention started badly. It’s likely to end that way, too—with the election’s central dynamic, one that works against their nominee, completely intact.

Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is the author of “The Triumph of William McKinley” (Simon & Schuster, 2015).


The Wall Street Journal
Clinton Needs a Voice of her Own
Unlike Hillary, Mr. Trump doesn’t know Obama-speak and doesn’t need deprogramming.

By Dorothy Rabinowitz

A lot can still happen at the Democratic convention, but nothing is likely to matter as much as Hillary Clinton’s look and tone, what she says—or perhaps more important—what she doesn’t say as she takes the stage Thursday night. Donald Trump, a man of iron predictability, faced no such test last week and delivered no surprises.

Not that there weren’t some striking moments in the glum enterprise that concluded in Cleveland, among them Melania Trump’s quickly famous speech. Also the contribution of Chris Christie, who functions periodically as the governor of New Jersey. Mr. Christie used his speaker’s spot to conduct a lengthy mock trial of Mrs. Clinton distinguished mainly for its unremitting tone of hysteria. It was a spectacle many Americans may remember should Mr. Christie become, as he apparently hopes, attorney general under Mr. Trump.

The Republican presidential candidate has one obvious advantage over Mrs. Clinton: He has never been in a position to absorb, as she has, the language, reflexes, certitudes, and high principles ready to be deployed on all occasions that are peculiar to the world of the Obama administration.

Not that Mr. Trump isn’t capable of embracing certain of the president’s views on America, first revealed in 2009 during Mr. Obama’s now-famous trip abroad to see heads of state and express regret for America’s offenses, known to history as the Obama apology tour. Those views of America as a nation in decline, virtually without allies, emerged ever more conspicuously during the president’s first term.

Last week Mr. Trump lashed out at NATO, then went on to argue that the U.S. shouldn’t be interfering in the business of other nations. And that we had so many failures of our own at home: Ferguson, the killing of police—so much. Who are we to tell the butchers and mass murderers of the world what to do?

Unlike Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump doesn’t know Obama-speak and doesn’t need deprogramming. He hasn’t absorbed the language that Americans recognize well after eight years. They have heard through all these years the nostrums, the reflexive high-minded oratory, that have come with every terror attack. They can hear it all over again in Mrs. Clinton.

Never was this clearer than in the days following the terrorist assault in Nice, when she described the attack as cowardly and vowed that we would never allow terrorists to undermine our egalitarian and democratic values. Such assertions always feel, and are, strangely off the point, which is the horror of the atrocity that has taken place.

The notion that terrorists are busying themselves trying to undermine our egalitarian values is odd, especially in light of the obvious fact that what they are trying first and foremost to do is kill us.

Mrs. Clinton, like Mr. Obama, seems to have divined the wishes of our enemies. Not only do they want to undermine our democratic values, they would, as she recently said of Islamic State, “love for us to be dragged into a ground war”—a perception highly appealing to a political administration now scarcely able to conceive of a circumstance dire enough to warrant American ground troops.

Mr. Trump addressed the cruel slaughter in Nice but had no more hard specifics to offer about what might be done than Mrs. Clinton did. He nevertheless managed a tone far more effective in its outrage—the voice of a leader in time of war. It helped, no doubt, that he felt no need to deliver warnings about the undermining of our democratic values.

In July alone, eight police officers were killed in high-profile shootings—five in Dallas during a Black Lives Matter protest and three more 10 days later in Baton Rouge. The day after the latter killings, as stunned citizens grieved—black Americans included, especially those who had seen in Dallas how the police officers had rushed to protect them from sniper fire without regard to their own safety—Hillary Clinton addressed a convention of the NAACP.

She began with a stern, clearly heartfelt, denunciation of the killing of police, then proceeded to her main focus—namely, a recital of the innumerable injustices visited on black Americans by the police. It did not apparently occur to her that it might be possible to mention to the NAACP the injustice, the fatal consequences, of the war that had been whipped up against police by activists portraying them as oppressors and murderers.

The planners of the Democratic convention included on their list of honored speakers a group of mothers—known as Mothers of The Movement—most of whose children died at the hands of the police. There was no opportunity, however, for a speech by any of the wives or parents of the slain police officers. The enraged officers of Philadelphia’s police union promised not to forget this slap in the face by the Democrats. Mrs. Clinton and company had evidently failed to grasp that following the dictates of political expediency, otherwise known as pandering, would in the end be more costly than doing what was right and just.

To win the election Mrs. Clinton will have to sway voters from across the political spectrum. True, huge portions of the electorate are appalled by the prospect of her opponent winning the presidency, which is to her advantage. But huge numbers of Americans are no less appalled by the possibility of a Clinton presidency that would in effect be another Obama term. All of which is the reason Mrs. Clinton will have to do her utmost to find a voice of her own.

She may well find one and perhaps even something of a political backbone. Enough, at least, to ensure that she resists pressures to move even further left than she already has to win supporters from Bernie Sanders’s sullen troops now brooding over their lost revolution. It will be an effort and not easy but it should hardly be too much for the candidate who may become the first woman elected president of the United States.

Ms. Rabinowitz is a member of the Journal’s editorial board.


The Wall Street Journal
Review & Outlook
The Other Clinton ‘Change’
No one in Philadelphia wants to talk about the Clinton Foundation.

By Dan Henninger
Bill Clinton on Tuesday portrayed his wife as a “change maker” whose life has overflowed with good intentions and commitment to others. No one can spin a yarn like Bill, and for the believers it was a touching portrait. But if it’s true, why do the polls show that 68% of Americans don’t trust Hillary Clinton? That has to do with the rest of the story, which is how the Clintons have used politics to enrich themselves and retain power.

Nowhere is this clearer than at the words you didn’t hear Mr. Clinton speak: the Clinton Foundation. This supposedly philanthropic operation has become a metaphor for the Clinton business model of crony politics. The foundation is about producing a different kind of “change.”

No doubt the foundation does some charitable good, but this is incidental to its main purpose of promoting the Clinton political brand. Since its creation in 1997, the nominal nonprofit has served as a shadow Super Pac, designed to keep the Clintons in the national headlines, cover their travel expenses, and keep their retinue employed between elections.

The payroll has included Huma Abedin, who drew a State Department salary even as she managed politics at the foundation and is now vice-chairwoman of the Clinton campaign. Dennis Cheng raised money for Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 bid, then became the foundation’s chief development officer and now leads Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 fundraising. Cheryl Mills, Hillary’s chief of staff at State, sat on the foundation board. And don’t forget Sid Blumenthal, the longtime Clinton Svengali who was secretly advising Mrs. Clinton at State while drawing a foundation salary. This may not be illegal but the charity here is for the Clintons’ benefit.

The funding for this political operation has come from nearly every country and major company in the world. These contributors have the cover of giving to charity, when everybody knows the gifts are political tribute to a woman determined to be President. Donations to a charity aren’t governed by the same caps or restrictions as those that go to a traditional Super Pac. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren somehow overlooked this in their Monday night riffs against money in politics.

Witness the charitably minded donors from Algeria, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The Swiss bank UBS gave more than $500,000 to the foundation after Secretary Clinton solved its IRS problem. Canadian mining magnate Ian Telfer used a family charity to donate millions to the foundation at the same time a Cabinet committee on which Mrs. Clinton sat was reviewing (and ultimately greenlighted) a Russian mining deal involving his company. According to the Washington Post, Bill Clinton received $105 million for 542 speeches between January 2001 (when he left the White House) and January 2013 (when Hillary stepped down from State), often from companies and countries with business before State.

The foundation also rewards Clinton friends and political allies. This newspaper reported in May that the Clinton Global Initiative (a foundation program) directed a financial commitment to a company, Energy Pioneer Solutions, part-owned by Clinton friends. In 2010 Canadian tycoon Frank Giustra, a foundation donor, won the right to cut timber in Colombia, not long after the Clintons met with Colombia’s president.

There are no doubt other examples we don’t know about because the Clintons have hidden foundation details until they are exposed in the press. The foundation had to admit that it continued to accept donations from foreign governments while Mrs. Clinton was Secretary of State, though she had promised not to do so. The Associated Press reported this month that the official calendar Mrs. Clinton kept at State publicly omitted at least 75 meetings she held with “longtime political donors, Clinton Foundation contributors, and corporate and other outside interests.”

Keep in mind that the Clintons did all this after their ethical travails of the 1990s and knowing Mrs. Clinton would run for President again. It’s as if the lesson they learned from the 1990s isn’t that they should cut fewer corners but that they can get away with anything. And maybe they can.
Wonder Land Columnist Dan Henninger on the former president’s speech at the Democratic Party convention.