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Democrats Leave Philly with Good Vibrations, But Will It Last?

Binyamin Rose, Philadelphia

Come November, we’ll know whether Hillary made her case. If the convention is any guide, her own delegates need no convincing, but for Clinton to prevail in the general election, in what her top aides admit will be a close race, she must win over Bernie Sanders Democrats. It would also help to take a good share of Republican voters unhappy with their party’s nominee

Wednesday, August 03, 2016


(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) Celebration erupts as Hillary Clinton formally accepts her historic nomination for president of the United States of America at the 2016 Democratic National Convention

Smiles and cheers abounded in Philadelphia, where Democrats coronated Hillary Clinton as their party’s nominee. Husband Bill, along with President Obama, framed the upcoming election as a stark choice between a seasoned public official and a reckless neophyte. But the public remains skeptical about Hillary as she seeks to make history

Hillary Clinton walked onstage at the Democratic National Convention with a lot to prove.

During the course of four days, convention speakers maintained that the former secretary of state, New York senator, and first lady has a passion for public service and did not deserve the reputation as cold and uncompassionate.

Clinton attacked this criticism head-on, telling the nominating convention that despite her lengthy record of public service, some voters still didn’t know what to make of her. “All these years of public service,” she said, and “the service has always come easier to me than the public part.”

Come November, we’ll know whether Hillary made her case. If the convention is any guide, her own delegates need no convincing, but for Clinton to prevail in the general election, in what her top aides admit will be a close race, she must win over Bernie Sanders Democrats. It would also help to take a good share of Republican voters unhappy with their party’s nominee.

In the first days of the convention, Sanders delegates, loyal to the bitter end, booed party officials off the podium and periodically disrupted the convention with their protests. So Clinton sought to connect with the activists and honor them for their commitment.

“Bernie, your campaign inspired millions of Americans, particularly the young people who threw their hearts and souls into our primary, ”Clinton said. “I’ve heard you. Your cause is our cause. Our country needs your energy, ideas, and platform.”

With that, Clinton turned her attention to attacking her general election rival. “Trump wants to divide us from the rest of this world and from each other. He’s betting the perils of this world will blind us to its promise.”

Turning the issue of trust against Trump, Clinton warned that Americans cannot trust anyone who says “I alone can fix it.”

“We don’t say ‘I alone can fix it.’ We say we’ll fix it together. Our founders wrote a Constitution so thatAmericawould never be a nation where one person has all the power.”

Israeldidn’t figure prominently at either convention. Trump gaveIsraelone line in his speech, as did Clinton, saying: “We put a lid onIran’s nuclear program without firing a shot and we have to keep supportingIsrael’s security.”

Clinton said her primary mission as president would be to create more job opportunities and raise wages “right here in the United States,” especially in regions hollowed out by factory closures. She further said she would reject unfair trade deals, stand up toChina, and support our steelworkers and autoworkers.

After ticking off a broad range of economic policies, Hillary taunted the Donald. “Now you didn’t hear any of this from Donald Trump did you? He spoke for 70-odd minutes — and I do mean odd — and he offered zero solutions.”

This part of her address bordered on the disingenuous.  

New York City Council Member David Greenfield: “I’ve spoken to [Clinton] personally and quite frankly, she is hawkish when it comes to national security and terror. With Donald Trump, you don’t know what you’re going to get.”

Anyone who tuned in on the Republican convention last week in Cleveland heard precisely those same ideas, even if they were expressed more stridently. If anything was odd, it was seeing a Democratic convention, with dozens of delegates waving full-sized American flags, being stirred by a speech by General John Allen. The retired general, whom President Obama tasked with fighting ISIS, said America would defeat evil, beat down ISIS, and protect the homeland. Again, not much different from what Trump & Co. had said the week before.

Perhaps this is all a shrewd political move by the Clinton campaign. If they can blur the distinctions between the two parties, then the election comes down to who is more personally fit for office and who better addresses the nation’s concerns. In that case, Hillary is counting on the fact that she is more articulate, and that Trump’s negatives are higher. As long as those numbers stand up, she can nurse any small lead she has in the polls to the finish line.


Do a Google search and you’ll come across headlines like this: “Hillary the Hawk,” “Donald the Dove.” In Hillary’s case, the moniker is based on a track record of support for US military intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. In Trump’s case, the nickname comes from his many pronouncements suggesting that theUSmight withhold support from NATO and SEATO member nations unless they begin shouldering a fair share of their defense costs.

The truth is, the tags are not so black and white. At the Republican convention, Trump wagged a big stick, saying he would take on the barbarians of ISIS and win fast. And before she became secretary of state, Senator Hillary Clinton opposed President Obama’s 2008 campaign proposal that theUSstrike al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan. (Clinton was concerned that US military intervention could destabilize Pakistan, with al-Qaeda grabbing the country’s nuclear arsenal.)

The Hillary the Hawk narrative is useful political fodder, however, that has enabled the Democrats to turn the tables and stake a claim to beingAmerica’s national-security party.

But not every Democrat agrees that Hillary is a hawk, and even if she is, the length of her claws is open to debate.

“Hers will probably end up being a context-based decision,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee at an afternoon Politico Hub briefing on day four of the convention. “It’s one thing to recommend military action as secretary of state. It’s another thing when all the responsibility comes down to you when you’re in the commander in chief’s chair. Sometimes that leads to taking an inherently more cautious position.”

At the same briefing, Delaware Senator Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, contended that Hillary would be more hawkish than President Obama. “But she will also come into office well-grounded in all the tools at our disposal and will emphasize diplomacy first rather than turning to military means,” Sen. Coons said.


This week, the Office of Director of National Intelligence and the CIA will commence briefings with both nominees onUSmilitary activity in the world’s hot spots and share profiles of world leaders threateningAmerica’s interests. This is a tradition hailing back to the days of the Truman administration, when the relatively inexperienced Truman took over from FDR, a popular and knowledgeable wartime president.

The Democrats say they are frightened at the prospect of entrusting the sometimes loose-lipped Trump with classified information. Trump counters that Hillary is the one who can’t be trusted, and citesBenghaziand her personal e-mail scandal as proof.

Jeremy Bash, Hillary Clinton’s top advisor on national security, and a former Pentagon and CIA chief of staff, told me he will take a wait and see position before determining Trump’s trustworthiness on this account.

“If we don’t hear much from him, then that means he’s absorbed the briefing, and that will be a first because he hasn’t shown in the past an interest in receiving briefings at all,” Bash said. “But it’s also possible he will be irresponsible with the information and that would be a concern.”

Neither Trump nor Clinton will be briefed to the same degree as President Obama. Neither will receive any information that might compromise American intelligence sources or intelligence gathering methods, said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

However, Trump has more to gain from the briefings than Clinton, who, having served as security of state, is already up to speed on pressing security issues. The briefings will allow Trump to start catching up.

Last week, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton told MSNBC that once Trump is briefed, he may change his tune on certain matters of national security.  “He may have a different perspective on Vladimir Putin and whatRussiais doing toAmerica’s interests and allies in Europe and the Middle East andAsia,” Cotton said.


Donald Trump got a post-convention bounce in the polls, and Hillary Clinton got hers too. Wait for the convention dust to settle, and by August 15, we should have a very strong indication of who the November winner will be.

“Most voters aren’t going to change their minds,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a political newsletter published by the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “So I wouldn’t expect dramatic changes to occur after we get our first look at polling statistics in mid-August.”

Sabato’s Crystal Ball is headed by Dr. Larry Sabato, a Rhodes Scholar, who founded the center. He claims “a remarkable 98% accuracy rating in projecting all races for President, Senate, House, and Governor since 2000.”

For now, Sabato’s crystal ball shows Hillary Clinton with 347 electoral votes safe, likely, and leaning to her, with 191 safe, likely, and leaning to Trump, although he admits that if the election were held today, it would certainly be closer and that Trump could very well win.

Kondik said that Trump’s path to victory lies in holding all of the states that gave Mitt Romney 206 Electoral votes in 2012, and flipping Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida from blue to red.

I asked him how Trump can do that, as it seems like a very uphill battle.

“He’s got to spend more money on TV advertising than he’s been spending,” Kondik said. “Trump’s been saying Clinton is throwing her money away on television ads. There is some political-science research showing TV advertising is ephemeral, and he may be right about that, but eventually, Trump’s going to have to spend more money on voter registration for his supporters. Clinton may just overwhelm him in that capacity in those states where just a percentage point or two can make a difference.”

Kondik said Trump also needs to win over more of the lower middle-class rural white Republican voters who crossed over to vote Obama in 2012. “They might find Trump more of a Republican they can identify with compared to Romney,” Kondik said. “But he’s got to maintain Romney’s strength among the more traditional Republicans — the wealthy, white, well-educated voters that might be resistant to Trump, and that’s not going to be easy.”

Should clinton win in November, it would mean that along withGermany’s Angela Merkel andBritain’s new Prime Minister Theresa May, women would be the highest office holders in the three most powerful Western countries.

To get there, Hillary will have to improve her popularity. According to the latestGalluppoll, 30% of Democrats and those who lean Democratic view her unfavorably.

That reputation is unfounded, says Elaine Geller, a Clinton delegate from Hollywood, Florida who shared a story with me on the convention floor shortly after Hillary wrapped up the nomination.

Geller is vice-president of her local chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW). When Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas, Hillary, as first lady, spearheaded a project to improve Arkansas’s rock-bottom literacy rate. Clinton heard about the NCJW’s HIPPY program, which stands for Home Instruction for Pre-School Youngsters and joined an NCJW trip toIsrael, where the project was initiated in the 1960s.

“Hillary learned as much as she could, and then came to meet us inFloridato make sure she really understood it, and then took it back with her toArkansas,” Geller says. Eventually,Arkansasrose from 50th to 14th in national literacy rankings.

Geller says this is the Hillary Clinton the press doesn’t report on and the public doesn’t know.

“I think Hillary instills the right values in her family, the same ones that I instill in mine. I think she’s going to make America better.”


Ever since Hillary Clinton selected Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate, critics on the left and right have assailed him.

Kaine is tough to buttonhole. He owns a gun but supports stricter gun controls. As a Catholic, he’s against abortion personally, yet earns a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood.

OnIsrael, Kaine supports a two-state solution, voted for theIrandeal, and boycotted Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.J Streethas poured six figures into his campaign coffers.

Kaine also was one of 17 senators who declined to sign a letter in April urging President Obama to increaseAmerica’s annual military aid toIsrael. Yet Kaine joined a bipartisan group of senators last week, urging the Senate Armed Services Committee to include an additional $320 million for Israeli missile defense systems in 2017 — aid which the Obama administration is holding up.

Despite his Catholic faith, he has opposed bills that promoted Christian worship at public events. “I just deeply believe that that people shouldn’t be forced into a setting where the worship does not honor their own faith traditions,” he told attendees in April at the Jewish American Heritage Month Celebration inWashingtonorganized by The Friedlander Group.

During his acceptance speech, Kaine came across as personable and conversational, peppering his delivery with a few crowd-pleasing lines in Spanish, a tool that should make him an effective campaigner in Hispanic strongholds.

Kaine was called Hillary’s “safe pick.” It’s safe to say he should be a net asset on the campaign trail, but he’ll likely face some withering questions, ones that will probe the inconsistencies between his personal and public positions.


“We expect perfection from our elected officials and it’s not realistic.” So said New York City Council Member David Greenfield at a Jewish roundtable event Tuesday afternoon on the sidelines of the DNC.

If so, I asked him why people take Donald Trump to task for his utterances and behavior.

“It’s almost impossible to judge what people do in their personal lives and behind closed doors,”Greenfieldsaid. “It’s very different when you are the standard bearer for your party — and potentially for your country — to behave publicly in a way where you insult and denigrate other officials and ethnicities.”

Greenfield, a Democrat, supports Hillary Clinton. He has met or conversed with her on more than a dozen occasions and views her as a solid, consistent, long-time supporter of Israel. When Bernie Sanders made his putsch on the party platform to incorporate a plank critical ofIsrael’s “occupation” of the West Bank and demand an end to “illegal settlements,” clinton pushed back and her forces defeated the effort.

“She also stuck her neck out by sending a letter to her own church asking them to vote against BDS. I’ve spoken to her personally and quite frankly, she is hawkish when it comes to national security and terror. With Donald Trump, you don’t know what you’re going to get,” Greenfield said.

If that’s the case, why do many voters feel that Trump “gets it” on global terror and Hillary doesn’t?

“I liken Donald Trump to a lottery ticket,”Greenfieldsaid. “A lot of people think they’re going to win big. I liken Hillary Clinton to Israel bonds. They’re reliable, safe, and pay yearly interest. They’re a good, secure investment. You don’t take all your money and your whole family’s possessions and stake it on winning the lottery.”


Congressman Jerrold Nadler hasn’t changed much since his college days when he marched against the Vietnam War and for Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 presidential campaign.

One of the most liberal members of Congress, servingNew York’s 10th District, which includes parts of liberal-Jewish Manhattanas well as conservative-Orthodox districts in Brooklyn, Nadler told the Jewish roundtable event that Donald Trump is dangerous forAmericabecause he’s ignorant.

“He offers no specifics,” Nadler says. “He says I’ll solve all your problems because I’m a strong leader. So was Mussolini inItaly, Franco inSpain, and Peron inArgentina. It better not be Trump in theUnited States.”

Nadler did not discuss his controversial support for President Obama’s Iran deal, and his press aides hustled him away from me before he could answer my question about the topic. Nadler also reiterated his support for a two-state solution, although he admitted that the Palestinians don’t seem interested.

Both issues will come under a microscope this fall, when Nadler runs for re-election against Republican challenger Philip Rosenthal making his first run for public office. Rosenthal earned a doctorate in physics, practiced law (where he specialized in the licensing of nuclear material), and co-founded Fastcase, an online legal-research company, before turning to politics. He’s also found time to become shomer Shabbos over the past couple of years.

With that kind of wisdom and talent, why would Rosenthal run for Congress, considering it garners measly 14% approval ratings?

“In a sense, that’s why I’m doing it,” Rosenthal said, in an interview on the Republican convention sidelines.

“Our future is at stake. Congress isn’t getting done what’s needed for the country. We easily should remain the world’s greatest economic and military superpower if we stop making mistakes.”

One of the most egregious mistakes, says Rosenthal, is the nuclear deal withIran. His Democratic opponent in November’s race forNew York’s 10th Congressional district, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, supported it. Rosenthal thinks that will be his Achilles heel.

But it will take much more than nipping at Nadler’s heels to unseat him.

Despite public contempt for Congress, some 95% of incumbents won reelection in 2014.

“This year is different,” insists Rosenthal. “He betrayed a lot of his base with theIrandeal, and this is a year where people have a strong yearning for someone from the outside, like me, who understands science, business, and technology. When I was studying physics, theUSled the world in everything. Now if you want to fly into space you go withRussia. The best fundamental-physics lab in world is CERN inEurope. We need to dream again. And we need to lead again.”


How much of modern-day reporting is factual and how much rumor based? And how much of a difference does it make?

“It used to be irresponsible to broadcast or publish something unless you were absolutely certain it was factual,” says David Boardman, dean of the Temple University School of Media and Communication. “Now, there is much more license to put things out there and let someone else validate it or shoot it down. I went through a period feeling that was absolutely wrong but I don’t think there’s any stopping that.”

I spent a few very valuable minutes talking shop with Boardman on day one of the convention, who, like me, cut his journalistic teeth in the era when reporters wrote their copy on typewriters. Before joining Temple, Boardman spent 30 years at the Seattle Times, where he was executive editor. The paper won four Pulitzer Prizes under his leadership.

Even though journalism has changed, Temple journalism-school students are still drilled in the fundamentals, including ethical behavior in news gathering and reporting, fact checking, and extracting stories from documents and big data.

Boardman says he can make peace with the new style of reporting as long as the journalist “is transparent and explains what they know, what they don’t know and what’s left to find out.”

Faced with the proliferation of bloggers and websites, many of whom never leave their basement and may have few or no sources, how does today’s reader decide who to trust?

It’s not much different from any consumer decision and it starts with checking out the brand.

“Over the last five years, many individuals have developed powerful journalistic brands of their own,” Boardman said. “Ezra Klein, for example, got bigger than the brand and then brought his credibility to Vox Media. Over time, your readers will be increasingly following you on Twitter or on some form of social media. With every tweet, you’re developing a brand and an expectation among your audience of where your standards are and where your lines are.”

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