Monday, October 31, 2016
Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
On Friday October 28th, just ten days before the general election, Director of the FBI, James Comey sent a letter to the Chairmen and ranking members of the nine Congressional committees stating the Bureau was re-opening the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails. The letter read: “In previous congressional testimony, l referred to the fact that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had completed its investigation of former Secretary Clinton's personal email server. Due to recent developments, I am writing to supplement my previous testimony. In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation. Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work, I believe it is important to update your Committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony.”
The unrelated case referenced was one that involves former NY Democrat Congressman Anthony Weiner. He is accused of sending lewd texts to a 15 year old underage girl. His wife is Hillary’s top aide and evidently they both used the same unsecured computer for email. Is this an October surprise? Will it persuade voters that Clinton is not fit to be president? Three observations:
First, Comey would not have sent the letter if what the FBI found was minor. It has to be something the investigators believe is subject to prosecution. They wouldn’t have re-opened if it wasn’t. Just three months ago, Comey said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Clinton, but testified before Congress that she had made major mistakes and used poor judgment. Rumors were the ‘career FBI leadership’ was livid that Clinton wasn’t charged. Most likely those bureaucrats put extreme pressure on the director to re-open when this new evidence was found. It has also been alleged the Department of Justice, under the leadership of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, nixed an investigation into the Clinton Foundation’s donors and their access to the State Department. Our system of government allows for the president to appoint the AG and the FBI Director, but the agencies are to operate under the premise that no one is above the law and are not to be influenced by public opinion or politics, only by statute. That appears to not have been the case with Clinton and someone should pay the price. This corruption rises to the highest level of our government and Congress should investigate and punish those who ignored the rule of law.
Second, Comey’s action is unprecedented. There has never been a presidential candidate in the final days of a campaign placed under federal investigation. Clinton released the following statement: “I’m confident whatever they are will not change the conclusion reached in July. Therefore it’s imperative that the bureau explain this issue in question, whatever it is, without any delay.” Clinton knows that is not going to happen. No federal investigation is conducted in the media. The FBI will methodically conduct their investigation, which will take months, and then release their report. Her statement is a smokescreen.
Third, Comney’s action should concern all Americans. No matter your party affiliation or political ideology, every voter should pay attention. Much has been made of the ‘fitness’ of the two candidates. One is a loud, brash, blowhard who has no filter and hurls insults like a late night comedian. The other is a career politician who has a string of scandals dating back decades and who has been so careless that she is now under her second federal investigation in a year. Trump has dubbed Clinton, “Crooked Hillary.”Is Comey’s announcement that Clinton is again under federal investigation a game changer? It would be the death sentence to a presidential campaign in a normal political year, but 2016 is not the normal year. Many voters- in both parties- will not care because they are blinded by party loyalty, but Director Comey’s action is unprecedented. Do we really want to elect a person under federal investigation? Seriously?
Monday, October 24, 2016
Weekly Opinion Editorial
POLL THAT MATTERS IS NOVEMBER 8TH
by Steve Fair
Less than two weeks until the election. The major media is reporting that Clinton is ‘surging’ and Trump is ‘tanking’ based on polling. According to FiveThirtyEight, a polling operation that aggregates several polls, Clinton’s chances of beating Trump are 86.6%. They also forecast that Republicans will lose the Senate, but hold the House. While most believe Clinton is headed for victory, Trump is a candidate whose unconventional style presents a challenge for the conventional pollsters.
First, Trump brings new voters to the polls. Those ‘new voters’ are never polled, because they are not considered ‘likely’ voters. A conventional poll sampling includes those who have shown up to vote in the past and never includes new registered voters and infrequent voters. Trump appeals to the non-political and the causal voter. If those show up, all bets are off. The well-respected Gallup organization missed the 2012 election when they predicted Mitt Romney would beat Obama. In trying to explain how they got it wrong, they said they misidentified likely voters. Pew Research says the biggest challenge in polling is ‘forecasting who will vote.’ While polling, for the most part is very accurate, it is not an exact science.
Second, voter intensity is not something that polls can measure. Energy in politics wins elections. Clinton doesn’t energize her supporters, Trump does. Intensity moves people to the polls and in a close election, it pushes candidates to victory. Trump’s voters will vote- Hillary’s may not. Trump is drawing huge crowds to large rallies, but that is just one part of voter intensity- they still have to show up. It is amazing how many people are influenced by polling. It’s called the ‘bandwagon’ effect. People want to vote for the winner. Rush Limbaugh says the reason the media is hyping the poll numbers is to suppress the Trump vote. They are trying to downplay the voter intensity advantage Trump has over Clinton.
Third, pollsters are often hirelings. Polls are commissioned by organizations (often media) that are looking for a predetermined outcome and they are seldom disappointed. You will note that CNN and Fox seldom have the same numbers in polls- in fact they are usually the exact opposite. Pollsters often give their client what they want- documentation for stating an editorial position. That is not to say there aren’t good pollsters who use unbiased methods to gather data, but often pollsters are no better at predicting an election result than the weatherman.
Fourth, polls are not always right. In fairness, they get it right more than they get it wrong, but they had Obama losing to Romney and the Democrats holding the Senate in the midterms. They had Gore beating Bush by 2 points in 2000. Polls had Dewey beating Truman- remember the newspaper that prematurely printed the headline? The mother of all botched political polls was a 1936 Literary Digest straw poll survey that said GOP challenger Alf Landon would win in a landslide over the incumbent, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with 57 percent of the vote. Literary Digest had correctly predicted the previous 8 presidential elections. Interestingly enough, the only pollster who got it right was an upstart named George Gallup.Several years ago, I was being interviewed by a reporter after an election and they asked how our Republican candidates had won in a county with a majority of Democrat voters and I responded, “They got more votes than their opponent.” The reporter thought I was simply being sarcastic, but I went on to explain that getting the vote out is what wins elections. Nearly 50% of Republicans voted in that election, but only 38% of the Democrats. Voter intensity and getting the voter to the polls is a fundamental principle in politics. Clinton understands that concept- she is a seasoned politician who has done politics for years. Trump isn’t using conventional methods to get his vote out, but he motivates voters like no politician in recent memory. That will help his turnout numbers.
Monday, October 17, 2016
Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Stave Fair
Tip O’Neil was the former Speaker of the U.S. House. A Democrat from Massachusetts, he once said, “all politics is local.” His point being that all real change, impact, influence, progress or decline in politics begins at the local level. Most people pay more attention to what happens at the national and state level than they do to their county and municipal races. Those who serve on city councils and school boards often impact your life as much or more than your congressman or the president. Those who serve in those offices are seldom compensated and are true volunteer leaders. They serve because they care and want to make a difference. They deserve our admiration and respect.
Most everyone agrees that America is in trouble no matter who is elected president, but sadly few want to invest their time, treasure and talent long term in effecting change. Here are four observations on how we can effect change in our government:
First, citizens must pay attention all the time. They can’t just engage every two years when there is a major election. 75% of the population are considered ‘uninformed’ voters. That means they vote based on propaganda or how much mass marketing a campaign has done and not on facts. Until people start packing town hall meetings and challenging the voting records of their elected officials, we will continue to get more of the same. Elected officials listen to people who will impact their political future, whether it be a donor or a constituent who is committed to change. If someone only shows up one time and then doesn’t come back, you can’t expect things to change much.
Second, change will not be immediate. The reason most people don’t stay engaged in the political process is because they don’t believe they are making a difference in the process. They attend a couple of GOP meetings and nothing changes at the national level, so they don’t come back. They become cynical and wrongly believe no matter what happens, nothing will change. If people don’t stay engaged, it’s a guarantee the only change will be downward. To use a football analogy- politics is like a team that grinds it out one yard at a time. Just like football, few long ball throws connect in politics. Political activists have to be patient and show perseverance. America didn’t get in this shape overnight and we won’t get out of it overnight.
Third, the cause is more important than one person. Politics is more personality driven than issues driven. People get excited about a particular candidate and lose interest when that candidate fades from the scene. No one is indispensable or irreplaceable. If citizens want conservative policies, they have to be committed to the cause. It is disappointing to see former elected officials or candidates drop out of the process after they leave office. That simply says it was all about them and not the cause.
Fourth, politics is a reflection of who we are. Politics doesn’t operate in a vacuum. We get the government we deserve. If GOP meetings were standing room only in every county and state in the country, there would be change from the courthouse to the White House. But sadly only the most hard core show up and stay engaged. School board and municipal races have the lowest voter turnout of all races. Blame is placed on the politicians, but the fact is citizens have only themselves to blame. There is no ground swell of commitment to changing our government by actually doing something other than complaining. Knocking doors for a candidate, cooking chili, frying fish, stuffing envelopes, and putting out signs are considered to be too menial of tasks to most people. They leave the dirty work in politics to others and criticize/critique how they do it. They are like the nitpickers Sanballat and Tobiah, who criticized Nehemiah.O’Neil was right about politics being local, but it also gets personal. This election cycle has seen unprecedented insults and accusations at the national level. Unfortunately, that filters its way down to local races. In politics, humility is considered a liability and arrogance an asset. Lying, cheating, and character assassination is common in campaigns, by people who publicly quote scripture. Very disappointing. The only way to change that is for principled, ethical people to be engaged more than just voting every two years. Until that happens, expect more of the same.
Monday, October 10, 2016
Weekly Opinion Editorial
DEBATE REVEALED DIFFERENCES!
by Steve Fair
The second presidential debate was held Sunday in St. Louis. With the backdrop of the mass distribution of a 2005 tape of Trump making lewd and vulgar comments about women and the Donald holding a news conference immediately before the debate featuring three women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault, the stage was set for a lively town hall event. Trump, like him or not, doesn’t fold under pressure. From the beginning, he was on the attack and didn’t back down. Many of the questions were ‘character’ questions and it was laughable to hear Clinton present herself as being ‘morally superior’ to Trump. Clinton attacked him on his temperament and discipline, but even his harshest critics have to admit Trump stood his ground. If you peel back the sideshow banter and the emotion driven questions, there actually were some questions posed that revealed striking differences in policy between the two. Let’s look at those in order of importance:
First, a lady named Beth Miller asked the candidates what type of judge they would appoint to the Supreme Court. Clinton said she would appoint judges who ‘really understand how the world works.’ She mentioned voting rights, Roe vs. Wade, same sex marriage, and campaign finance reform as issues where she said the current court had ‘went in the wrong direction.’ Clinton never mentioned the Constitution. Trump said he would appoint judges who are in the vein of Justice Scalia. He said they would have to respect the Constitution and specifically mentioned protection of the second amendment. This question revealed the difference on what the two candidates believe is the function of the SCOTUS. Clinton believes the Constitution is not to be interpreted from a literal viewpoint. Trump believes, like Scalia, the founding document is the basis of our rule of law and the job of the SCOTUS is to interpret each case based on a literal view. This was the most striking difference of the night between the two candidates.
Second, there were several questions on the Affordable Care Act, aka Obama Care. Clinton said she would fix it by saving what works and tweaking what doesn’t. Trump said he would repeal it. Clinton’s solution to fix Obama Care would require more investment of taxpayer money/more government. Trump favors a market driven health care system/less government. Vastly different approach in policy.
Third, there was a lengthy debate on the Syrian civil war. Clinton wrongly stated she wasn’t the SOS when President Obama made his ‘line in the sand’ speech regarding Dr. Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s aggression. The fact is, Clinton was still in the position six months after the speech. Clinton maintains the Russians are keeping Assad in power and the US should work with our allies on the ground to get Assad out of power. Trump said that Assad and Russia were fighting ISIS and that Clinton had no idea who the rebels are. The fact is US backed fighters are fighting US backed fighters in Syrian. The foreign policy of the Obama administration is a joke. Trump, who disagreed with his running mate’s call for military action against Assad, was right- Hillary Clinton has been on the wrong side of foreign policy for thirty years. One of the most pressing issues the new POTUS will face will be the Syrian war. The two candidates approach to the situation greatly differ.
Fourth, a man named Ken Bone, in a bright red sweater, who has become an Internet sensation, asked about America’s energy policy. Clinton said she was for all types of energy, saying that natural gas could be a bridge to renewable energy. She accused China of illegally importing steel to the US and Trump buying it to build his buildings. She said that climate change was a real problem. Her solutions were more regulations and more government. Trump said the EPA was killed the energy sector and the Obama administration’s policies had hurt the coal industry. Their approach to US energy policy would be different- Trump would be more market driven, Clinton favors more regulations and government mandates..There were questions about using religion as criteria for immigration policy, taxing the wealthy, Clinton’s ‘deplorable’ comment, Trump’s 2am Miss Universe tweet, race relations, and Clinton’s Wall Street speeches. Trump brought up Clinton’s E-mail scandal and chastised the moderators for not doing so, which had the pair sheepishly hanging their heads. This certainly wasn’t a conventional debate, but it did reveal clear differences between the candidates in the direction they want America to go. Yogi Berra famously said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” In a month, voters decide which fork to take
Monday, October 3, 2016
Weekly Opinion Editorial
PUT MEAT ON THE BONE!
by Steve Fair
The second presidential debate will be on Sunday October 9th at Washington University in St. Louis. Martha Raddatz of ABC and Anderson Cooper of CNN will serve as moderators. The debate wills start at 8pm and run for 90 minutes. It will be a ‘town hall’ format. Half of the questions will come directly from so-called ‘uncommitted’ voters selected by Gallup. The other half will come from the two moderators. On Tuesday night, the Vice Presidential candidates squared off in their only debate, but few voters are moved by who the VP is on a ticket. Both Pence and Kaine are capable and have governing experience, but voters vote for president, not vice president.
The latest polling results from Politico show Trump trailing Clinton in seven of the eleven swing states. He leads in Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, and is tied in Nevada. The only real poll that matters is the one on election day, but Trump’s team better jump start their ground game in the next thirty days. He must win Florida and the latest poll shows him trailing Clinton by two points.
Rasmussen reports that 82% of voters now say they are certain how they will vote and Clinton leads 49% to 46% among these voters. As election day gets closer more and more voters will move from undecided to the committed column. Trump is doing better at convincing undecideds than Clinton, but he must win at least 2/3 of the undecideds to make this a race. That is a challenge, but here are four things he should do to win:
First, he must be more prepared for the second debate. He can’t just show up and deliver marketing tag lines. He has to put ‘meat on the bone.’ He has to convince the American people he not only understands what needs to be done, but has a plan to get it done. Even those who support Trump are frustrated with his broad brush policy approach. Debates don’t move the needle as much as many people think, but they are important to the momentum of a campaign. Trump needs the momentum.
Second, he must bring up Clinton’s untrustworthiness. Even within her own party, Clinton is perceived as being untrustworthy. Never in our nation’s history have we had a candidate who went into the White House with so much baggage as Clinton. The E-mail scandal, Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation donors, and dozens more make Clinton unfit to hold any elective office. Is Bill Clinton’s immorality fair game? Hillary’s response to it certainly is and Trump will likely pull the trigger on that on Sunday.
Third, Trump needs to remind voters the next POTUS will appoint several members of the Supreme Court. Both Trump and Clinton have released short lists of who they would consider on the court. Clinton’s list is all liberals, Trump has more conservative thinkers. The future of the SCOTUS is likely the most important factor in the election.
Fourth, Trump must have boots on the ground in the swing states. Spiking voter turnout among Republicans can win the race. In every election, a candidate wins because they got their voters to the polls. Trump’s celebrity campaign style draws big crowds to convention halls and stadiums, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to getting voters to the polls. A get out to vote effort involves door-to-door personal voter engagement getting infrequent GOP voters up off the couch and to the polls. Increasing voter turnout by 5% can mean the difference between winning and losing. For Trump, it is his only path to victory. The RNC has deployment teams(activist from other states going to swing states) who spend their own time and money knocking doors and convincing their fellow Republicans to get to the polls.
Trump has defied all convention wisdom this campaign cycle. When pundits were declaring him a ‘flash in the pan,’ he proved them wrong. When the media said he wouldn’t be competitive in the general election, he has put states into play that Republicans haven’t won in 30 years. If all his ‘angry’ supporters show up and vote, he may very well turn the electoral map on its head. We shall see in 35 days.