Monday, April 27, 2015

Does quid always mean quo?

Mitt Romney said it “looks like” Hillary Clinton committed “ bribery” , based upon what he read in a New York Times story, regarding dealings of a Russian purchase of interest in a US uranium company.  He, coming from the investment world, of all people, should know to wait until all facts were known and that there is proof that a quid resulted in a quo.

I once had an international investment banker whose job it was to negotiate finance deals with foreign governments and corporations sit down and tell me how corruption works in business dealings abroad.  . The problem is that most many countries who do business around the world think that even the more honest countries work the same as they do.  They give a quid and expect a quo.  Often they give quids without being asked.  They just believe they will get a quo anyway.

 My banker friend gave me an example.  His firm was competing against other international
banking firms from various countries for a lucrative deal in an eastern European country emerging from Communism.  It was famous for corruption.  One gimmick was that the ruling strong arm president, allegedly elected democratically, set up a charitable foundation in the name of a family member, who in this case used the foundation as a cash cow. The winning ticket depended on making a sizeable contribution to the charity.   The request for a donation was made in advance of the contract being awarded.  Incidentally, both US law and his firm would not allow it, and his firm lost the contract.

When you hear about the Clinton Family Foundation commenting that not all of those donations from foreign governments were given from the goodness of their hearts, realize that most of the world believes their quid, even if not tied to a quo in advance, will result in a quo and giving to a family foundation provides the mechanism.

What Hillary Clinton must show there was no quo there and to answer every one of the instances raised by her attackers. She has begun. The State Department Assistant Secretary of State who chaired the committee approving the Russian uranium deal issued a statement attesting that Clinton never intervened. The statement from the Assistant Secretary got buried in the very end of a New York Times article bringing the matter to public attention.

One part of the story particularly raising eyebrows is that Russian contributions to the Foundation were never disclosed. The Foundation admitted the error that the Russian gift was co-mingled with non-governmental donations in their report and tax filings, but it was listed in the annual reconciled audit statement posted on the Foundation’s web site.

 That was shoddy work the part or the New York Times and the Clinton Cash author, in their eagerness to rake some muck. Hopefully going forward, Clinton’s defense gets media coverage equal to the allegations and others eager to comment read the whole article or wait for the accused’s defense.

important update: No Clinton was on the Foundation payroll but the Foundation paid their airfare...a finding by a charity watchdog organization, buried in a sentence in a NY Post article:

A version of this was published in the www.skyhidailynews. com   May 8, 2015

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Swiftboating in 2016; Is Hillary being swiftboated?

Beware the swiftboaters bearing tydings of wrong doing . They may be trying to sink your candidate.  Swiftboaters have been in business ever since politics in a democracy and a free press existed but they did not get their name until the 2004 Presidential campaign.  It has become the modern word for unfair campaign smear tactics.
In 2004 a 527 political group ”Swift Boat Veterans for Truth”, drew on a  book by John O’Neill, political activist supporting the Viet Nam War since 1971 and a long time antagonist of John Kerry, the Democratic candidate for President. The Swiftboater group  ran ads near the end of the campaign which attempted to defame Kerry’s war record in commanding a swift boat operation in Vietnam.  It was a very important element in Kerry’s defeat. It was after the election all but one of the  crew members who actually served under Kerry in the swift boat came forward to attest to Kerry’s deserving the medals , the supportive Navy Inspector General’s Report was released on Kerry’s request, and admission by his Commanding Officer, the chief accuser, that he had of no direct personal knowledge of the events leading to medals. Kerry made a strategic error in not requesting release of official military records earlier in the controversy.
Given the GOP’s evident strategy of assassinating Hillary Clinton’s character, expect the GOP dominated Congress and their media partners to keep the issue alive by dragging out further investigations, rehashing and digging up more allegations.
 Making a candidate out as personally untrustworthy is a time honored political strategy when opponents are neither unified or have strong issue messages appealing to those beyond their base, like this year.  It is possible for perception, right or wrong, of character flaws to drown out the issue debate in a general election as it did to in 2004. It is particularly effective when the attack is launched nearer election day, giving little chance for lining up friendly witnesses, documents, and other refuting proof.
 There is a possible swiftboat attack in the making.  The pre- release of a book by Peter Schweizer, Clinton Cash, to Fox News and the New York Times, alleges suspicious links between donations by foreign governments to the Clinton Family Foundation and State Department decisions made by Clinton when she was Secretary of State.  
 Liberal watchdog Media Matters traced Schweizer, the president of the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), to a conservative group with close ties to the billionaire Mercer family funding Sen. Ted Cruz's presidential run.  Per Media Matters, GAI has also received substantial support from groups backed by Charles and David Koch.
The Clinton Family Foundation appears to have used those donations for humanitarian aid, though  speaking fees and unreported donations definitely deserve scrutiny.   Digging by the New York Times has just begun. Their purpose is to find proof if Clinton helped Foundation donors get favorable State Department decisions. The smoking gun was missing from Schweizer’s book.  Unlike Kerry, Clinton has eighteen months to fight back and to be prepared for nth hour surprises. She must deal with each allegation quickly and she should hold nothing back that would clear her.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The GOP is hanging its hats on some weak campaign hooks

The GOP primary candidates are revealing common threads in their strategies besides the past year GOP themes. While the past issue positions still are referenced, they are also attempting to do as much damage to their presumed opponent Hillary Clinton early in the game since she still polls well ahead of any announced and unannounced Republican candidates.   
Many individual voters still ask elected officials “what have you done for me lately” .  Off-setting pocket book issues in the minds of voters are party affiliation,  demographic identification, the importance of ideology over other considerations, and  personal  dislike of the candidate’s traits. Which traits are important vary depending on party affiliation. “Caring for people like me” is important to Democrats”, for Republicans,” trustworthiness, strong leader”.
 The GOP presidential candidates are all now hanging their hats on ideology and attacking Clinton’s trustworthiness. Those hooks have weaknesses outside the GOP base in a general election. Clinton’s strategy is to focus on what she would do to solve problems plaguing “kitchen table” concerns.
Clinton can put the GOP ideologues on the spot who say they “want to take back America”.  She can challenge them to be specific about just what programs they want to eliminate and whose middle class ox they would gore.   By just saying “no” to whatever Clinton proposes and not offering credible alternatives to solving the same problems, they will appear to be not caring. Some GOP aspirants have proposed constructive ideas, but if there are hints that government has a new or continuing role or they would cost any upper income taxpayer a dime, there are plenty in the GOP waiting to shoot them down.
GOP candidates to date have launched a campaign of character assassination. Their theme is that Clinton is an untrustworthy person because she kept her own email server, and seems secretive and untruthful.  That she used her personal email was never a secret in Washington since everyone who communicated with her in the State Department saw her  email address on the “from” line. Stonewalling requests from Congress is an inside beltway political game. She broke rules, but unless somehow the contents of her emails are discovered to disclose back dealings, that issue will not have much resonance with those who are more consumed with solving daily problems.  
One weak hook is Benghazi, held up as an example of incompetence or dishonesty. Never mind after two years of Congressional investigation, the Republican dominated Congressional committee concluded screw ups were the CIA’s fault, not the State Department’s. Ben Ghazi is old news that has never gotten traction outside the GOP base.
Some try to paint her resume as weak. That argument is a tough sell. No emerging GOP candidate has a comparable depth of experience in foreign or domestic affairs.
A new attack is Clinton does not represent the future.  Being the first woman president is the future to many.  Polls are showing that factor has only widened the gender gap that plagues the GOP.  For others, solving problems left over from the past is their future.
Political Institutions in the United States, p 99; Richard S. Katz, Oxford University Press

Public Opinion and Polling Around the World, Vol. 1, John Gray Geer, ABC/CLIO, p.46

A version of this appeared in the  4/23/15

Sunday, April 12, 2015

On the Iran deal..looking out for number one. The deal is in US interests.

Looking out for number one should be the primary concern of Congress’ position on the Iran nuclear deal.  Number one means us, the United States.  A deal as outlined in the framework is in the  interest of our country because it is the best way to avoid getting   involved in another ground war in the Middle East.  The alternative is to remove any constraints on military conflicts with a march to war and an inevitable risk the US will find its boots on the ground as we fight on behalf of our allies in the region whose backs we have pledged to protect.
All out military conflict would be in no one’s interest, especially the civilians from Israel to Iran who will bear the brunt of the carnage. There is a body of thought that bombing Iran’s physical facilities would also require boots on the ground to be effective.  Whose boots? Ours?
 The devil is in the details still in process of being negotiated.  The fat lady has not sung and there are those both in the US and Iran who are out to sabotage the framework without waiting for the final aria.  Those attempting to abort the embryonic deal are US neocons such as John Bolton who want to do a pre-emptive military strike against Iran now, those who do not trust any verification methods to work, and hard liners in Iran who do not want to give up their ability to develop their nuclear weapons.
Those U.S. neocons are the same ilk who talked us into invading Iraq.  If we did not learn anything from Iraq, the futility, the loss of blood, the heartbreak of wounded warriors, and the $6 billion in treasure, then there is no hope for this country ever acting rationally. However, the US killing the deal would leave drummers for war as the ones in the drivers’ seat in Iran, with our Middle East allies, and in Congress, since there would be no restraints or constraints or alternatives left.
One possible scary outcome is that both Iran and Israel, who already has nuclear WMD, would be at a standoff of reminiscent of the cold war’s mutually assured self- destruction. We would then see Sunni Arabs race to get their own bombs. One itchy finger on a nuclear trigger could unleash the unthinkable.  
The simplistic alternative, to reinstate the sanctions, works only if Iran is the one to scuttle the deal.  If the US kills it, it is doubtful our partners in negotiations, France, Germany, United Kingdom, the EU, Russia and China, would continue since the purpose of the sanctions was to get Iran to negotiate and their chief partner, the US, was an unreliable negotiator.
Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have become deaf to credible safeguards against Iran cheating.   The reassurance of one of our chief negotiators, the Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist, carries more weight than politicians’ partisan speculations. Congress is also deaf to those they represent.  The American people support a nuclear deal by a nearly 2 to 1 margin per a Washington Post/ABC News March 30 poll.

Verson of this post published in 4 17 15