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Thursday, November 3rd, 2016 08:27 pm

I've seen lots of people talk about this year's Presidential candidates in terms of equivalency: "They're both so awful this year," or "Why do we have two people who ought to be disqualified this time?" I doubt anyone's going to change my mind at this point, but I always really want to understand viewpoints that differ from my own. And yet when I try to list huge, potentially disqualifying problems for each candidate, I honestly can't see anything approaching parity. (Especially when we limit it to topics specific to this pair of candidates, rather than longstanding policy differences between the parties.) Here are the top few points cited as "deal breakers" for each candidate that I can think of:


Trump:


  • Suggested the US might not honor NATO mutual defense obligations, which runs the risk of destabilizing the entire post-WW2 deterrence structure and courts global war between nuclear powers. (Even hints at this by a President would lead to those consequences, especially given Russia's behavior these past few years. I've seen claims that Trump having considered it publicly as a major candidate could have a negative effect, even if he loses.)

  • Suggested that the US could intentionally default (partially) on its debt, which could very easily lead to a collapse of the entire global financial system and would at least drive our cost of borrowing absolutely through the roof.

  • Actively encouraged racist and radical nationalist sentiments among his supporters, contributing to the public normalization of those attitudes to a degree we haven't seen in years (decades?): this is likely to persist well beyond the election even if he loses.

  • Bragged about his willingness to do sexual things to women without asking for consent. That's sexual assault, by definition, and even if you want to insist that doesn't mean he really did those things (despite women's claims), his words show at a minimum that he believes that behavior to be something that other men would admire. (This is just the most egregious of his many terrible behaviors toward women.)

  • Said he would insist that the US military kill the families of terrorists. This is morally breathtaking, and an obvious war crime. (He's also advocated other war crimes, like torturing terror suspects because "they deserve it" whether or not it's useful, or )


Again, that's just the absolute deal breakers that come to my mind offhand. There are plenty of truly awful policy positions that he's advocated (some of which trample on the Constitution and might deserve to be on this list for that reason), and in general he's demonstrated both serious ignorance of issues and structures in national and international policy and seemingly an unwillingness to learn what he needs to fill in those gaps (which might also be taken as a deal breaker).


Clinton:


  • Seriously mishandled classified information over email, using a private server for some State Department business. (Note, though, that the investigation was mostly completed over the summer and did not result in evidence clear or serious enough to merit prosecution.) If new evidence came to light that was substantially worse than all of the previous evidence collected, she could potentially be charged with a felony.

  • ...?

  • (Some might add "Would nominate Supreme Court justices who support Roe v. Wade", but that doesn't explain why she's framed as being so much worse of a candidate than any other Democrat in the past 30 years.)

I honestly don't know what the next item in that list is supposed to be. There have been countless investigations of her over the past 30 years (I think she has been subjected to more intense scrutiny than just about any other politician in my lifetime: you can decide how much of that was primarily politically motivated), but literally none of them have turned up actual evidence sufficient to convict her of a crime (or maybe even charge her) or to demonstrate that she abused her position or was negligent in her duties. Also, she's sometimes seen as "unlikable", but that's a different issue than "disqualifying".


I would really, really welcome help in understanding the perceived awfulness of Hillary Clinton, and while I won't promise not to push back against assertions I think are false or overblown, I'll do my best to be respectful and to try to understand.

Friday, November 4th, 2016 12:58 am (UTC)
I think not accepting false/unprovable beliefs about her is going to be a big hindrance to understanding people who absolutely hate her. There is a segment of the population that believes she's in bed with the mafia and has is literally guilty of murder, but somehow too powerful to catch/prosecute. I don't know, but I think that's where a lot of the "she's just as bad if not worse" stuff comes from.
Friday, November 4th, 2016 07:54 pm (UTC)
This may be the essence of it right here. Though honestly, if she's so powerful that even multiple years-long investigations with the full power of Congress behind them can't produce solid evidence of her crimes, that's pretty impressive: maybe she's the hero we deserve.
Friday, November 4th, 2016 07:07 am (UTC)
To start with, I don't plan on voting for either of them, and as a resident of California I can vote third party with a clear conscience: If, somehow, opinion shifts so that California is in play for the electoral college, then the rest of the country has already made California irrelevant.

Nor will I say much positive about Trump: The best I can say at this point is that I think he'd be an ineffective president. In order to get policy positions through he'll need support in Congress (and to a certain extent the bureaucracy), and he hasn't made political allies there.

So, my concerns about Hillary Clinton:

I suspect her of being corrupt. For example, her cattle futures trading matches a bribery pattern in use at the time, where the broker places two offsetting trades, and assigns the winning trade to the bribe recipient's account, and the losing trade to the bribe payer's account. I find that explanation at least as likely as her deciding to bet her net worth on a coin flip of an investment, or having the financial brilliance to turn $1000 into $100,000 over a matter of months, and then somehow losing interest in the market.

I view the primary thing that a president needs to do is to pick a good collection of advisers. Based on the email server story, I have doubts about her doing this: It's pretty clearly not a safe way to handle sensitive information, nor does it intrinsically comply with requirements about document retention or FOIA requests (Indeed, I suspect that was the point). If she had selected and listened to a team of good advisers, she wouldn't have done that. I have little faith that she'd do much better as President.

For what it's worth, the classified information thing should qualify as sufficient for a charge: The law in question does not have an intent requirement, though in practice it's usually handled by a loss of security clearance (and any job that relies on such) instead of a criminal proceeding. The decision not to pursue charges looks odd when compared to how other figures have been treated for classified-information infractions recently.

I'm also dubious about policy choices. As far as I can tell, her policy positions are somewhere between a continuation of Obama's policies, her campaign promises, and her private speeches to bankers and such. You'll probably disagree with me over this, but I strongly prefer something closer to a center-right policy set, and I think Clinton would be fairly effective at getting her policies through (and Supreme Court nominees, etc.).

I might be willing to forgive one or two of those in a lesser-evil sort of election tactical vote, but the combination leaves me seriously considering whether a Trump or Clinton presidency would be worse. In short, I wish both parties had nominated more suitable candidates.

Maybe we'll get lucky with the Electoral College, and it'll get thrown into the House and we can get someone better.
Friday, November 4th, 2016 07:47 pm (UTC)
The cattle futures thing is new to me (or rather, old: I'm not sure that I was paying enough attention to the details when it came out before I went to college). You're right that it looks suspicious. It's certainly possible that she just didn't recognize the risks she was running and got unreasonably lucky, but the bribery scheme also seems plausible. It seems like a very valid point of concern, and America's comparatively non-corrupt government is an essential asset of ours. That said, I'm not sure that it ranks up there with "risk of destabilizing the world economy" or "bringing white nationalism back into the mainstream" as a deal breaker for me. (If nothing else, this issue long predated Bill's time as President: it wouldn't be dragging the office into the mud in any new ways.)

Regarding the email server: This one feels like a case where one sees what one wants to see, on either side. I've read that Powell used his personal email account as Secretary of State just as Clinton did, though he evidently didn't use his own server for it. (I use a private email server, as you're very aware. :) ) The non-corrupt explanation that I've seen is that she (like Powell) didn't want to have to carry around two separate smartphones for personal and government email, and she already had a personal account on the family's server. Given that someone trying to dodge the FOIA could just have used the State Department account for routine messages and an anonymous Hotmail account for the shady stuff, I'm not sure what using a private server would supposedly gain her. But again, especially given that people are almost never criminally prosecuted for mishandling classified info without intent, I'm hesitant to see this as rising to the "advocating heinous war crimes" level of disqualification.

Obviously, you and I disagree on policy goals and how well Clinton's line up with our ideal desire. It's hard for me to see anything in the "policy differences" category as new in this election, though, in a way that would make Clinton appear to be a uniquely terrible candidate compared to other Democrats. (And honestly, I don't know how much sensible content we can deduce about what Trump's policies would be at all: he hasn't talked about them much, apart from ridiculous stuff like building a giant wall or terrifying stuff like forcing American Muslims to register in a database. I assume you're not too fond of his plans, either. But maybe you're optimistic that he wouldn't be able to get them through.)


I really do appreciate the time you've taken to talk about some of this, and to help me understand what some of the other half of the nation is seeing in this election. To my eye, it's still awfully hard to see anything that you've suggested for Clinton's list as approaching the level of awfulness in Trump's, even in aggregate. But maybe that's a place where I just need to work harder on seeing another point of view.

(I don't think that the House choosing some third candidate that most of the nation hasn't heard of and who almost nobody voted for would go over very well. Trump's supporters would seriously have a beef about "rigged elections" then and might well rise in armed rebellion, and Clinton's would be equally livid but probably with fewer guns and more sit-ins.)
Sunday, November 6th, 2016 08:27 pm (UTC)
The cattle futures thing isn't the only example, but it's clearer in terms of means, motive and opportunity. If, hypothetically, she'd accepted a suitcase full of cash, there'd be less evidence. But for more recent examples, consider how people with business before her in the State department paid her husband substantial sums for speeches, and/or donated large amounts to their charity. Even more recently, her husband had a private conversation with a high official in the justice department who had the unenviable task of deciding whether or not to charge her with a crime.

We can argue about whether these cross the line into actual illegality, but that's not really the point: We're voters deciding if her character and leadership are what we want in a president; not prosecutors trying for a conviction. The honorable choice in such cases is recusal from decisions carrying the appearance of impropriety, and that didn't happen much. So in terms of corruption: I look at the pattern of what I've seen reliably reported, and conclude that I have no honest or legal explanation for much of it. She looks corrupt to me.

In terms of the email server, I also look at this from a combination of perspectives. I don't think it was legal, but set that aside. Was it wise from a perspective of how to run a state department? There is the security argument, in a modern form of "Loose lips sink ships". Some information is of high value to adversaries, and it's appropriate to make economic trade-offs as to the cost of protecting the information and the cost if it is revealed. As you point out, we're both well aware that you have a private email address. To the best of my knowledge, you aren't using it for high-value information, but in case you are: I take only moderate security precautions. A black-bag job on my house could get access, and the hosting center is likely vulnerable to nation-state level attacks and national security letters. Nor do I know if your employer cares about the use of a private address. Most places I've worked have had relevant rules limiting work email on private accounts, but a school might not. I also doubt that your email is relevant to any ongoing legal investigations. Please let me know if I've made any bad assumptions here...

In contrast, Clinton's email pretty clearly did have high-value information on it, just from the stuff that has been published. Decisions of whom to target with drone strikes are of high value to the targets and maybe to foreign intelligence agencies. The Keyhole data is presumably of similar value to foreign agents, though it is of course possible that those capabilities have already leaked somewhere else. In short, this is material where lives are at stake, and more security measures are appropriate; air gaps, armed guards, that sort of thing. It's also should have been against policy for both federal records reasons and handling of confidential data reasons. If it weren't against such policies, a wise Secretary of State would have had a policy review and improved it, right? Legal or not, this raises serious doubts about her judgement. I'm not pleased with Powell using a personal email account for work purposes, but that doesn't mean it's OK for Clinton to have done so, and the scale in terms of content that shouldn't have been there appears to have been vastly different.

In terms of policy stuff: Why should it matter if it's new? Bad policy can be timeless. And, in fact, I agree that many of her goals would be nice. But, critically, noble goals are not enough. The paths taken towards those goals matter, and I don't think her approach is likely to work well. So from a results perspective: What are her triumphs as Secretary of State? Presumably not the reset with Russia (Ukraine, Syria), Libya, or Iraq. Maybe that's too mixed in with other people's efforts, so how about Clinton foundations deep involvement with Haiti, which now has an even less functional farm system and government, and now has a cholera epidemic. There may be some of bad luck involved, but there's a lot of policy that sounds good in theory but doesn't work well in practice.
Monday, November 7th, 2016 01:17 pm (UTC)
My thoughts on a lot of the "history of corruption" stuff are complicated. I agree that there are more incidents of "insufficient separation" than I'd like to see. But I also expect that over a decades-spanning political career, it would be hard for almost anyone not to accumulate some number of events that might look bad in that way, even if they were reasonably careful. One way to frame that might be this: how different would "Jane Doe's" history look from Clinton's if you assume that Jane didn't ever intentionally engage in corruption during her high-level political career but had political opponents trying their hardest to make it look like she did for 30 years straight? (I don't have a solid answer for that question.)

I guess that's why the "never any official findings of wrongdoing" carries some weight with me, even though I agree that I don't need to hold myself to a jury's standards. It's hard for me to tell the difference between "someone with poor character" and "someone whose opponents have tried for most of my life to present as having poor character." The fact that after all these years, none of the accusations against her have been substantiated enough to produce a conviction makes me suspect that it's at least partly the latter. (I don't know how to guard against the "where there's smoke there's fire" bias, otherwise. Yeah, it could be fire. Or it could be someone doggedly following her around with a fog machine.)

As for high-value information and email, my (limited) understanding is that classified data isn't allowed on anyone's email server, even those run by the State Department itself, for exactly the reasons you've discussed: their email servers aren't built to be secure at that level either. If Clinton violated those rules, that's a real issue, but it's pretty thoroughly independent of whose server it was stored on or relayed through. (Meanwhile, my email contains no high-value anything, and I think the college would mostly agree. :) Bit my work email is handled through my school account, anyway.)

Lastly: The only reason I focused on policy stuff being new is that Clinton has been portrayed again and again as the worst candidate (or second worst) people have ever seen, so terrible that she's on the same level of awfulness as Donald Trump. (That was the focus of my post here, anyway.) So I don't understand what policies of hers would make her look vastly worse than Obama or Kerry or her husband. I understand that many people wouldn't want her to have the chance to pursue that agenda (and boy, do I wish we'd had a campaign where we could have discussed it!), but what about it makes her uniquely bad on this level?
Monday, November 7th, 2016 07:33 pm (UTC)
The standard of "never any official findings of wrongdoing" is really a very weak standard. To apply it to a not-fully-comparable case: Why do people make such a big deal about Al Capone? He was only ever convicted of a tax charge, after all.

Reacting to your use of the word "uniquely": I think we may be arguing to different standards. I don't think that Clinton is uniquely bad, though her particular level of apparent corruption, competence in pursuing an agenda I think destructive, and national prominence is certainly unusual.

But that raises the question about Trump, is he uniquely bad? I think if you expand your range of comparison to other countries (even democratic ones), or politicians with less prominence (or other eras), do you really think he's that much worse? As a hypothetical, if you were faced with the unappealing choice of Donald Trump or David Duke in the presidency, which would you go for?

I "merely" hold that I think Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both very bad choices for US president.
Monday, November 7th, 2016 09:20 pm (UTC)
On further reflection, what counts for "official findings of wrongdoing"? Have you read Director Comey's findings?

In particular, the bit "there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information." strikes me as both official and a finding of wrongdoing. Admittedly he goes on to recommend against prosecution, but it's not all smoke and no fire.
Friday, November 4th, 2016 12:42 pm (UTC)
Didn't bake cookies.

(I'm not even kidding, though I am employing synecdoche.)
Friday, November 4th, 2016 06:51 pm (UTC)
There are none so blind as those who will not see.
Friday, November 4th, 2016 07:00 pm (UTC)
I am literally asking for help seeing right here.
Saturday, November 5th, 2016 12:07 am (UTC)
Okay, then. Anything you can name that's bad about Trump I can counter with something that's bad about Hillary and roughly equivalent in both magnitude and style.

Everything terrible about him is terrible about her, and vice versa.

To run down your points:

Re: Defense obligations. This is bad from Trump. However, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advocated for a war in Libya for pretty much no reason whatsoever. Bad things were happening, so she wanted to start bombing. Or, as I put it at the time: "We're bombing people who hate us on behalf of people who hate us." Then she left the whole region hanging by refusing to do anything more than lob bombs in from afar.

So yeah, Trump might get us into a war by sending the wrong signals to Russia. Hillary Clinton's gotten us into a war for pretty much no good reason whatsoever.

Re: Defaulting. Yep, that's bad. However, Hillary's advocating massive, completely unsustainable increases in entitlement spending. It's amazing how far, "Taxing the rich," will go. She's spent the same tax increases five times over in her policy proposals.

That's going to cause a default, if she gets her way. So yeah, pretty much the same thing.

Re: Racism. Please don't lecture me about how divisive Trump is. Hillary hates me. "Basket of Deplorables." She has a transactional view of politics: to Hillary the purpose of politics is to punish your enemies and slide favors to your friends. (So does he!)

She's not interested in being a uniting figure, and is instead interested in being difficult to people like me. She doesn't even bother with the language of unity. So not racism. Instead, she's just interested in hammering on people who aren't part of her urban coalition. Because that's much better!

Re: Sexual assault. I invite you to go back and find Hillary's statements about the women Bill has been accused of assaulting. I'll leave you with one of the more mild statements, regarding Paula Jones: "Well, if you drag a $20 bill through a trailer park, you can get all kinds of responses."

She might never have sexually assaulted someone, but it was expedient for her to cover for someone who had. I see no moral difference.

Killing terrorists' families is bad. So hey, how about that collateral damage in Syria and Libya!

She's also terribly corrupt, as Jon has noted above. She ran the State Department as a pay-for-play system for The Clinton Foundation, as WikiLeaks is now making clear. Just how did the Clintons amass a nine-figure fortune?

They're both awful. Equally so.
Saturday, November 5th, 2016 04:41 am (UTC)
Thank you for this. As you probably expect, I'm not particularly convinced, but I very much appreciate you taking the time to help me see another point of view.

I hope it's not surprising to you that I find the possibility of war with Russia to be far more terrifying than war with Libya, given its potential to be an existential threat to the human race. (As for Libya, I certainly felt at the time that the Arab Spring had the potential to transform the region in a very positive way. It wasn't a sure thing, but there was a possibility of significant benefits to US interests, and to human liberty in general. It's hard for me to blame Obama and Clinton for wanting to stop the weakened remaining dictators from brutally suppressing their people. If Assad had been less brutal, it might have worked out.)

I also don't see the expense of Clinton's policy proposals as a comparable default risk to Trump's suggested strategy. Elections are about sharing aspirations, not submitting a complete budget. I have reasonable faith that whatever shape those policies take as they move through Congress would bring them to some sort of livable near-balance (as usual). (And yes, I know it's fair to have been concerned about the state of the US budget for all that time. But we're not talking about a radically change from the status quo.) Meanwhile, Trump's suggestion was to cut out the middle man and just flat out choose to default. Again, much like courting war with Russia instead of Libya, even if there are similarities here, this feels like a very meaningful distinction.

I'm going to think very seriously about what you've said regarding Clinton's divisiveness. I do consider the white nationalist groups who have quite visibly rallied around Trump to deserve the label "deplorable", and I interpreted Clinton's use of that term to refer largely to them. (When she used the term, she very explicitly said that it only applied to some of Trump's supporters, and she immediately went on to insist that the rest of his supporters had very legitimate concerns that deserved more attention.) But you're absolutely right that using such a term at all was a clear indication that there's a segment of the population that she has no interest in expressing unity with, and that's a big problem. [A part of me still wants to say that it's less bad than Trump rolling back decades of progress on marginalizing racial hatred. But again, this is where I have to stop and listen: it's entirely plausible that the sense of disenfranchisement and abandonment by the rest of the nation that is common to a lot of Trump voters is just as serious of a concern.]

On to sexual assault. Hillary covering for Bill's misdeeds in such hurtful ways was indeed awful. I can't argue with that. I'm willing, though, to grant some level of forgiveness to a woman trying to stand by her husband in a difficult time. I think there's a place in a marriage for having a meaningful step more trust in your spouse's truthfulness and good character than a neutral observer would have. If Bill insisted to Hillary that he was innocent, I can't bring myself to condemn her for choosing to believe him, if that's what it was. And once you've granted her that premise, while quotes like the one you've shared do seem to cross a line of decency, maybe it's understandable coming from someone who believed that her husband was innocent and being smeared for no reason.

Finally, yes, I'm concerned about "collateral damage", too, and I'd add Afghanistan and probably Pakistan to your list. But awful as it is, that variety of killing innocents is more or less deemed "acceptable" by the international legal community. (This is one reason that I really hate war.) Once again, though, even though there is a similarity here, I see a large qualitative distinction between "not trying hard enough to only shoot enemy leaders when they aren't at home" and "deliberately sending assassins to kill someone's family".


Even though I've argued here, I really do appreciate your taking the time to share your perspective. I'll try my best to learn from it.
Saturday, November 5th, 2016 12:00 pm (UTC)
But you're absolutely right that using such a term at all was a clear indication that there's a segment of the population that she has no interest in expressing unity with, and that's a big problem.

Well, hey, Trump has no interest in expressing unity with well over half the population (women, African-Americans, Latin@-Americans, Muslims, LGBTQ people, the disabled, overweight people), so both sides are equally bad amirite

(edited because I remembered a couple more groups Trump has actively disparaged and also to note that snark is not directed at you, Stu.)
Edited 2016-11-05 12:04 pm (UTC)
Sunday, November 6th, 2016 02:46 am (UTC)
As long as you continue to cover for immoral and unethical candidates, you will get exactly the governance you deserve.
Sunday, November 6th, 2016 08:16 am (UTC)
For me, in addition to what others have said above, I don't see Trump as being very effective in implementing what he says he wants to do. He says he wants to build a wall. I don't actually think he'll be able to get that done. He has bluster, but he's all bark and no bite.

Trump didn't take polls to figure out how to finely craft every tweet. He just says what he thinks, and then says something else the opposite on another day. I heard an interview with a talking head who posited that Trump didn't have polling organizations in place, so he'd try out a few different opposing sound bites with different live TV audiences, and then pick the ones with the biggest reactions to use in the Republican primaries. He was given substantially more free press than the other candidates.

I'm deeply saddened that the Republicans chose him as the candidate, but if Trump wasn't running, Cruz would have been my candidate that I was hoping it would be anyone but him. I still fantasize that somehow it will be thrown into the house of representatives and Kasich will end up as the compromise position president.

I think Trump will be 4 years of nothing much, likely with a deep recession and/or strong inflation due to changing demographics world-wide that will hit whomever is in the white house.

In contrast to Trump, I think Hillary Clinton will be able to accomplish some of what she stands for, and I don't like what she stands for.

To pick one policy example, I believe that a high minimum wage is not good for most poor African American and Hispanic communities. It enables discrimination for employers that are paying earners above-the-table, and encourages more labor to be underground, so that workers do not get the basic protections of the law, in addition to not getting a good wage. It's not that I think labor shouldn't be paid for their work, it's that labor isn't currently being paid fairly for their work, and that problem is made worse by a high minimum wage.

I think it's possible that Hillary Clinton could get the federal minimum wage increased.

Trump is terrible to those around him, but his sphere of influence stops with those he's no longer in the room with. As President, and as a candidate, he's "been in the room" via TV with a lot more people, but that's where it stops. Clinton's bad policies influence millions more.

--Beth
Sunday, November 6th, 2016 01:10 pm (UTC)
Believe me, I wish that the Republicans had nominated a serious candidate with a vision for policy that would contrast with Clinton's in meaningful ways, so that we as a nation could have the conversations we desperately need to have about how to manage our future. Quite apart from my moral horror at what Trump is already doing to our nation and my fears about what he could do to us and to the world practically at a whim as President, I am upset with the Republican party for abdicating their end of that in favor of a candidate whose entire message is based on fear and hate. I am immensely sorry that you don't have a candidate in this race that comes at all close to matching your views; our country is weaker for it.

Even so, I beg you not to base your vote on the assumption that the President of the United States is powerless. Most of the fears that I described in my initial post were things that Trump could initiate unilaterally or by way of his direct appointees. (We've had multiple decades at this point of Presidents from both parties gradually expanding the power of the Executive branch at the expense of the Legislative.) And I'll point out that the mainstream Republican leadership has been singularly ineffective at stopping Trump from doing anything he wants thus far, so I have no confidence that they'd suddenly develop that ability after he's won the national election and proven just how strong his base really is.

I can't think of a previous time when the former Presidents from one party declined to endorse their own party's nominee (much less that at least one of them was said to have planned to vote for the other party's candidate). I think there's an important message there.
Monday, November 7th, 2016 05:29 am (UTC)
Even so, I beg you not to base your vote on the assumption that the President of the United States is powerless.

The president is in no way powerless! But I think Hillary would be substantially more effective in wielding the full power of the presidency than Trump would be, which is what scares me more. Frankly, I don't think either of them will survive 4 years without being impeached. I give Trump 12 months before he's either impeached or resigns, I'd put Hillary Clinton at 36, but she might go the full 48.

I do wonder from my liberal friends, if a Republican had set up a private e-mail server with the intent of avoiding the Freedom of Information Act, then destroyed e-mail covered by FOIA once it was discovered, would my friends want to just drop the subject as quickly? It is hard to imagine that, but I don't know how you feel about the types of infractions absent a particular ideology behind them.

Please do not tell me "Colin Powell did it too" because the infractions, intent, and the scope are not comparable.

--Beth
Monday, November 7th, 2016 01:39 pm (UTC)
I think you're presuming greater illegal intent around the email server issue than is necessarily justified. You suggest that Clinton set up a private server with the intent of avoiding the FOIA, but as far as I can tell she complied with all of the requests for records that she received. You suggest that she destroyed email covered by the FOIA: which email was that? Maybe I haven't been paying enough attention and there really was something serious there. My impression was that the deleted email was the stuff that her staff described as "personal" as a justification for deletion, right? (Since, I think(?), purely personal correspondence is not covered by the FOIA.) Do we have specific reasons to think that the messages she didn't turn over weren't personal, other than just a presumption that Clinton must be covering up corruption? (My reading of the FBI's conclusion about the Weiner laptop thing says that all of the email from Clinton on it either duplicated what Clinton had already turned over or it was "personal", so that would to some degree support the "she's telling the truth" side of this.)

As I've said elsewhere, I just don't see how the private server thing can be construed as showing intent to violate the FOIA. You don't need a private server to violate the FOIA, you just need some random throwaway Yahoo Mail account. Heck, if I were in her position and I did want to violate the FOIA, I'd probably want to use some anonymous account like that for it anyway, whether my main email was on a server of my own or not. It's just too likely that someone would eventually ask to see my own records.

I'd like to think that I'd do my best to hold people from both parties to the same standard, on this and on other issues. I also can't pretend that my knee-jerk reactions would probably be different. I try pretty hard to correct for those once I actually sit down to think about things or to write, but it's awfully hard to judge one's own success. For what it's worth, I absolutely want my friends to point out any times that they see me supporting a double standard, in this or in anything. (That's one of the great benefits of having friend with diverse experiences and views.)
Monday, November 7th, 2016 07:23 pm (UTC)
Did she comply with them all? The Congressional subpoena (not an FOIA request, if you're drawing that distinction) was dated March 4, 2015. The email in question, according to the FBI, was deleted in late March. Normally in such cases the person under investigation isn't permitted to decide what evidence to share and what to withhold (or even destroy). The order doesn't necessarily matter all that much: Destroying documents that may reasonably become the subject of an investigation is forbidden, with certain exceptions for carefully-stated document retention policies -- which do not apply here.

But, if you hold to the standard that she was permitted to decide what email was relevant, do you simultaneously hold that an absence of direct evidence implies much about innocence?

As to why she might have done this instead of, say, a Yahoo account: Firstly, something like a Yahoo account doesn't provide much protection against legal maneuvers for discovery. Backups exist, hosting providers tend to comply with government requests, etc. I can discuss technical details if you're really that interested in such things. Secondly, the appearance of a throwaway account is more suspicious. She gambled: If the email question had come to light later or not at all, using a personal email server doesn't sound that bad, at least compared to a "this is my email for personal stuff, this is my email for work, and this is my email for stuff I don't want anyone to know about".
Sunday, November 6th, 2016 02:36 pm (UTC)
What Stu said, but even beyond whatever Trump would or wouldn't manage to push through in actual policy measures, I think continuing to have him "in the living room" on TV as President and figurehead for four years would be *hugely* damaging, in that his mere presence manifestly gives comfort and confidence to racists, misogynists, and white supremacist nationalists. This is really almost completely independent of anything he does; we've seen over the past year that his preferred style of rhetoric worsens and emboldens these groups.

While I debate the effects of minimum wage, I think even if you're right that it hurts poor minority workers significantly, the same groups could be hurt just as badly or worse by these effects. Honestly even if I had a 100% guarantee that Congress and advisors could keep Trump locked down and away from any insane policy decisions, his aura effects alone would make me terrified of the possibility of his presidency.
Sunday, November 6th, 2016 04:04 pm (UTC)
Put a gun to my head and ask me to pick between these two candidates, and I'll tell you to pull the trigger.
Sunday, November 6th, 2016 05:10 pm (UTC)
Living in California, my vote for president doesn't matter. Local school board, it matters quite a lot. Hillary is winning California, and I'm voting for the libertarian candidate. I'd like to see that as a viable third party, not a party of quacks.

In the gun-to-the-head scenario, I wouldn't ask them to pull the trigger because I have hope and faith in our system to make it through bad candidates. The checks and balances are there for a reason.

If I had to choose, I suppose I'd go with Trump, because Hillary has come out against freedom of the press and stated that she'd nominate activist judges who will give more weight to the president and bureaucracy, despite the actual text of laws passed. I think that the checks and balances are important in preventing tyranny in the future.

There have been too many cases of prosecution for political gain. Even if one is innocent, the legal costs of proving it are too great so most people settle. I think that political culture has been horrible under Obama, and it will get worse under Hillary Clinton.

--Beth
Sunday, November 6th, 2016 06:10 pm (UTC)
This is a pretty grim choice as far as freedom of the press is concerned. Clinton has had an adversarial relationship with them for years (charitably because she's felt like they've hounded her with one baseless investigation after another for decades; uncharitably because she's horribly corrupt and does all she can to hide the proof, thus far with essentially 100% success). Meanwhile, Trump actually wants to change US law to make it easier for him to sue reporters and news organizations that publish negative things about him. I don't think this issue is a good one to draw distinctions on.

My sense of "activist judges" is that it's a term used to describe any judge whom one disagrees with. :/ I remember a court session a few years back when the Democrats were accusing the court's right-leaning members of being "activist" one week, and the the Republicans were accusing its left-leaning members of being "activist" the next. Historically, I can think of several major steps forward in the civil rights era that were based on the decisions of "activist judges" who declared that racist practices were not compatible with a modern understanding of the Constitution, and we celebrate those decisions today. (Similarly, the modern concept of the 2nd Amendment prohibiting regulations like gun control was first asserted by "activist judges" in the mid-20th-century.) On some level, the whole structure of checks and balances relies on "activist judges" standing up to the legislative and executive branches when the laws and policies they enact aren't constitutional. So if your concern is that Clinton's judicial picks won't be activist in the directions you prefer, I think it's more reasonable to focus on that point than on a claim that they will be fundamentally inconsistent with American government.

I'm depressingly certain that political culture will continue to be horrible under whichever of these candidates wins. I don't know how we break out of this pattern.
Monday, November 7th, 2016 06:58 am (UTC)
Neither one of them are big First Amendment supporters: Clinton is on the record as wanting to propose a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United ... which was a case about people publishing uncharitable stuff about her specifically. That, and she says willingness to overturn it is a Supreme Court litmis test. They're kind of both in the "I want to change the law to silence my opponents" camp.

Citizens United is an interesting case, more so than usually gets covered. Even if you take a less literal reading of the first amendment than I do, you have to admit that the law pre-Citizens United was a mess. There were a number of different classes of organizations, with legal results like GE is allowed to spend as much money influencing elections as it likes, but GM isn't... because GE is a "media" company. The supreme court was kind of stuck with either inventing new law, or throwing the thing out as unconstitutional, and the majority chose the latter. Structurally, the right choice is for Congress to rework election campaign law, but that seems out of favor.