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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 05:39 PM
Number of posts: 16,939

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Do You Believe That America is Exceptional? I Do.

What Makes America "Exceptional"? A Mirror for Our Better Angels - Do you recognize ourselves in it?

I am proud to be American when our enemies hate us for the qualities that make us great.

I am proud that Americans believe that all people are created equal and that women have the same rights as do men for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is something that America stands for in the world. One could say that makes America exceptional.

I am proud that Americans believe in the right to freely assemble, and to go where we wish to, when we want to, and to be with who we choose unfettered by intrusive government restrictions. It is something that America stands for in the world. One could say that makes America exceptional.

I am proud that Americans believe in freedom of religion; that no one should be discriminated against or penalized because of their religious beliefs or lack of same. It is something that America stands for in the world. One could say that makes America exceptional.

I am proud that our nation was founded with the belief that on these shores those who fled from religious persecution would find safe haven and a fresh start at rebuilding their lives. It was something that America stood for in the world. One could say that made America exceptional.

I am proud that America is predominantly a nation of immigrants. Not because there were times during our history when indigenous peoples were displaced or worse by newer arrivals. Unfortunately war and conquest are historic threads in the tapestry of virtually all humanity. That part is not exceptional. I am proud of America's vibrant tradition of inclusiveness, tolerance and co-existence that time and time again has risen up when most needed, to strengthen the ties that do bind us despite our many differences: E Pluribus Unum, “One Out of Many”. It is something that America stands for in the world. One could say that makes America exceptional.

I am proud of America's pioneering spirit. Our openness to new places, new people, and new experiences. Our willingness to stretch our horizons beyond the familiar and the oft illusionary sense of security that conformity and zealous caution brings is characteristic of our nature. We are known for being willing to take risks to achieve what we believe in. It is something that America stands for in the world. One could say that makes America exceptional.

I am proud that we know our Union is imperfect, and have vowed to strive to make it more perfect rather than just say it is good enough. It is something that America stands for in the world. One could say that makes America exceptional.

I am proud when I see America's brave and generous spirit, one that has encouraged many a man and woman to found or join with a not for profit organization dedicated to reducing human misery both here and around the world. Others were called to enlist in our Armed Forces out of a conviction that it was their duty to defend those who faced violent oppression, even genocide in this world. They did so out of a sense of common humanity, not for personal treasure. It is something that America still stands for in parts of the world. One could say that spirit makes many Americans exceptional.

I am proud when it is our impulse to offer hospitality to a stranger because they are a stranger, not despite them being one. I am proud that it is written on our most famous and cherished national monument "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." It is something that America stands for in the world.

One could say that all of these things make America exceptional, if in fact all of it remains true.

"I'll keep the oil"

Donald Trump said that this morning during his phone interview on Morning Joe while discussing his plans to defeat ISIL to "keep Americans safe". He wouldn't just send in thousands of American troops to fight against ISIL He would also seize the oil that ISIL currently controls. And he would "keep it" - giving some to disabled vets.

I haven't seen anyone in the media or politics pick up on this yet but it could prove to be the most dangerous statement Trump actually made, hidden in the shadows of his wildly anti-American stance about barring people from entering the United States based on a religious test.

ISIL may control oil resources now, but that is a very recent occurrence. ISIL didn't control any significant territory prior to the last few years. Where that oil lies is within the Sunni majority nation of Syria and in regions of Iraq where Kurds and non Kurdish Iraqi Sunnis have long been dominant, all of them believing that oil belonged to them. Who exactly does Donald Trump think he will ultimately be seizing the oil from if he gets his way? True a tiny portion of it may be in various storage tanks controlled by ISIL forces, but the overwhelming bulk of it sits below the ground where it has always, inside other Muslim nations.

So supposedly to make America safer from "Radical Islamic Terrorists, Donald Trump proposes sending an American invasion force into Arab Nations that will, among other things, steal their oil. Sounds a lot like something the actual Crusaders many centuries ago engaged in; occupy and plunder. What do you figure our Kurdish allies in this struggle will think of that? How about all those Iraqi Sunni Muslim tribes who we are counting on to ultimately help us oust ISIL from Mosul?

Exactly how does Trump plan on getting that oil and keeping it? How big an invasion, how large an occupation, and for how long? How many American lives is that oil worth to Trump - on the battle field in the Middle East AND here at home in American cities after his policy confirms the ISIL narrative that Americans really are 21st Century Crusaders out to plunder the Islamic world?

i'm Waiting for Republicans to Come Out Against the No Fly List

It simply follows from their logic. We live in a free society with constitutionally protected equal rights. Why should person A who has not been convicted of any crime be able to board an airplane while person B who has not been convicted of any crime can not?

That is the supposed basis for Republicans wanting people who have been placed on the Terrorist Watch List No Fly List to be able to buy guns. They claim those people with suspected terrorist sympathies have a constitutional right to own weapons that supersedes our right as a society to take seemingly reasonable measures to prevent a terrorist massacre. After all, maybe they were put on that list by mistake. Maybe the list is so shoddily assembled, so riddled with potential errors, that an innocent person might be prevented from buying an assault rifle even though someone involved in the national security apparatus had reason to think they might be a potential terrorist.

So why is it again that some people are being denied the right to travel freely? Why is their potential livelihood being threatened because they can not move rapidly from point A to point B by plane should their business interests require them to? Are only Americans who want to buy guns having their constitutional rights abridged through placement on a No Fly list? Is it the Republican position that we have to let them all arm themselves while we simultaneously keep them off our planes? But, but, they just might be innocent they say. How can Republicans support the No Fly list then I wonder? I expect them to come out strongly against it, oh, any century now.

Clinton Didn't Implode, So It Goes Like This...

National poll no longer matter on the Democratic side, not at all, except in the very unlikely event that either Clinton or Sanders yet has an event or series of events that makes their campaigns start to fundamentally unravel. That hasn't happened to date and there no longer is any plausible reason to think it still might prior to the Iowa and New Hampshire results coming in.

I am not saying that national polls are inherently irrelevant, I am saying that their influence now is essentially already baked in for the period that precedes the primary season official kick off in January. The next potentially ground changing event in the Democratic race for the presidential nomination will be results from actual polls with ballot boxes, not opinions, and people standing in lines supporting candidates at caucuses, not at rallies.

Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have met or exceeded minimal expectations for remaining viable candidates for President for this stage of the contest. One could say that isn't unexpected for Clinton, and that it is unexpected for Sanders, but it is significant for both of them to have reached this point. There was a time in mid summer when the anxieties within some sectors of the Democratic Party that Clinton might turn out to be a fatally flawed candidate, had gotten to the point where they were hard to ignore. Those anxieties, for many, have receded after Hillary's Fall performance. Meanwhile there always were those who in Sander's own words were prone to "underestimate" him. Sanders has not wilted on the national stage, he's consolidated his standing as the only viable opponent to Clinton.

Efforts to metaphorically "snicker" Sanders off the stage by turning him into a leftist caricature with wild hair and eyes have fallen flat. Sanders is now more or less viewed as a legitimate underdog candidate for President.That should not be underestimated. Try telling that to any number of nationally accomplished politicians on both sides who convincingly washed out in their bid to became President before a single ballot was ever cast. Men like Scott Walker, James Webb and Lincoln Chaffee are just the latest examples of that. Martin O'Malley has fared better than them, his political reputation has not been unduly damaged by this campaign, but he hasn't caught much measurable lightning either, and that's not for lack of trying or of intrinsic political ability. So it remain remarkable what Bernie Sanders has achieved to date against one of the most powerful presences in today's Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton.

There is definitely still a path open to victory for Bernie Sanders, but it depends on him exceeding expectations in Iowa and New Hampshire. At the very least he has to come in a very strong second in Iowa and follow that with a fairly convincing win in New Hampshire shortly after. Even if Bernie achieves those goals he will still remain an underdog, but the campaign will have entered into a new phase with Sanders still in the game. The only polls that matter at all right now are those out of Iowa and New Hampshire. And they only matter because they might effect the psychology of Democrats in those states who can participate in those contests.

Iowa and New Hampshire are retail politics States where a David can still beat a Goliath, and in the process potentially alter the course of political history. Heading into Iowa in 2008 Hillary Clinton was the Democratic presumed nominee, and in 2004 at that point Howard Dean was still the man to beat. John Edwards vaulted out of relative obscurity by coming in second in Iowa in 2004, eventually running for VP that year with the man who won that caucus.

At this point the national election polls are essentially lagging indicators waiting to be rebooted once there are actual election returns for the public, and the media, to finally digest.

Tuesday was a good night for both Hillary and Bernie

Both of them accomplished what they needed to last night, each in their own ways. And each of them needed very different things last night, aside from the obvious of course, which was to build and solidify support for their campaigns. They both did that. If this were the final Democratic debate I would say that Hilary "won" on the strength of her skill as a debater coupled with a performance that showed some spark along with substance. It wasn't the last debate though, we are still at the front end of this process, and for that reason I think Bernie gained as much, if not more so, as Hillary did.

There is no one who is currently still an active player on the purely political stage who is as experienced and accomplished at that art than Hillary Clinton is. Whether or not she measures up to the previous bench marks set by her own husband or Barack Obama is moot. They no longer are running for any offices. It's like comparing those great Yankee baseball teams of yesterday to whoever wins this years World Series. Those Yankee teams no longer take the field. Hillary is still on it. The last time Hillary ran for president she was caught flat footed at the beginning by an exceptionally talented insurgent adversary in Barack Obama After a rocky start though she regrouped and came back strong fighting tooth and nail to the very end of an extremely competitive race. Some people had forgotten how tough she became in the second half of that campaign.

Increasingly the media and "political observers" had become critical of Hillary's current chops. Last night they were on full display. She needed that moment, she got it, and she used it well. In areas where she is intrinsically strong among Democratic base voters, such as women's reproductive rights and gun safety, she showcased those strengths powerfully. In areas where her positions have more been called into question, like her willingness to stand up to Wall Street and her judgment regarding war and peace, she generally put her best foot forward given the record she has to defend. Hillary has been on stages like the one she stood on last night many times before, and the poise that comes with practice augmented her formidable strengths. She answered those who murmur that her skills are slipping, and tacked to the left as skillfully as reality would allow to soften distinctions drawn between her and her main opponent, Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders came into last night's debate with a different set of challenges. Until quite recently dismissed as a mere gadfly on the left, his frame of reference has radically shifted. Bernie had to stand virtually shoulder to shoulder with a long time heir apparent to the American Presidency and show why he belonged in that picture. Hillary Clinton has stood there for a very long time, Bernie not only is new to most of the American people, it is new to Bernie also to occupy that position. By all accounts, that takes some getting used to. Whereas Hillary found herself needing to reassure people that she could still play at the top of her game, Bernie had to assure people that he belonged in this game at that level. He needed to project a strong presence. He needed to validate the polling that consistently has shown that it is Bernie Sanders, not Joe Biden or some mythical TBA Al Gore type White Knight waiting in the wings, who is Hillary Clinton's foremost challenger for the Democratic Party's nomination for President. Bernie did all that and more.

We all know the look of an also ran. On the Republican side we see that in a Rick Perry, in a Scott Walker, in a Rand Paul. These men all once had serious national buzz behind them, but they collectively fell on their faces. Bernie Sanders could have begun sliding into those ranks had he melted on that stage last night, had he come off more like Lincoln Chaffee, or been as ultimately forgettable as Martin O'Malley was in the afterglow of that debate. O'Mallley didn't so much have a bad night, but he had a bad outcome. He failed to steal any measurable thunder on the left from Bernie Sanders, and that was what he needed to do. With his passionate impromptu comments about Hillay's "damn emails" alone, Bernie left a more indelible mark on the American political psyche than the sum total of everything O'Malley, Chaffee, and Webb had to say during the entire debate.

Hard core Democratic base political activists have followed Bernie Sanders closely for months, if not years, now. They are used to weighing him seriously as an alternative to Hillary Clinton for the American Presidency. Most Democratic voters are not, but that process began in earnest last night in front of millions of live viewers. Bernie didn't so much need to win them over last night as he needed to win their interest in him, and that is a mission now accomplished. His blunt straight forward no hold bars focus on issues that matter to Americans, his unvarnished diagnosis of what ails America today, and his bold prescriptions for a healthier future for the vast majority of American citizens, still sounds startlingly fresh, even unsettling to most ears. But there was no denying Bernie's strong presence on that stage, his authenticity and the strength of his convictions. Internet searches about Bernie soared during and after the debate, and they weren't emanating from those already familiar with him.

There are at least 5 more debates remaining. Both teams have time to huddle now and fine tune their messages, making adjustments as needed in delivery. Last night was a restoration moment for Hillary Clinton and a break through moment for Bernie Sanders. They both have emerged well positioned to continue the fight.


I prefer Hillary over Bernie on Guns. I prefer Bernie over Hillary for President

That's because I prefer Bernie over Hillary on most bedrock issues that are important to me. It' really not that complicated. In my book Bernie gets a passing grade on tightening up common sense gun safety laws and Hillary gets a passing grade on caring about the Middle Class. Hillary is clearly stronger on gun safety issues but Bernie still backs the improvements that are most likely to make it through any Congress in the foreseeable near term future. Bernie knocks it out of the park however for me on economic issues while Hillary merely hits a single. I trust Bernie more on foreign policy also. Both would be fine on social issues with just minor variations separating them.

Bottom line - Bernie has my strong support in the primaries. And either Bernie or Hillary or "Uncle Joe" for that matter would have my strong support over any Republican running for President. To me it is that simple.

Maybe, just maybe, it's not about emails

Maybe it's just the times that are a changing. Maybe the public has grown increasingly tired of politics as usual and a tipping point has finally been reached. Maybe being an establishment backed candidate has become the virtual kiss of death. People just might be as mad as hell and they aren't going to take it anymore, at least while there is any other option available.

I know we are sometimes loath to give the Republican base credit for having any fundamentally sane instincts. And yes the Republican "outsider" candidates who are doing so well this year really are "out there' in more ways than one. But they decidedly are not establishment backed, and that may ultimately prove to be a far more important attribute than any particular rant they may be capable of spewing.

A few months back almost everyone believed that Hillary Clinton would almost certainly win the Democratic nomination for President, but that certainty is no longer apparent. And while Jeb Bush might never have been as prohibitive a favorite on the Republican side as Hillary was on the Democratic, virtually no one could have predicted that he would be mired in the second tier of Republican candidates at this stage, typically polling in single digits. Meanwhile Scott Walker, the fresh new Republican face pre-positioned to pick up all the pieces should Jeb Bush falter, is already out of the race.

Something seems to be at work here far larger than any combination of gaffes, poorly managed press conference or debate performances, or even media fanned whiffs of scandals can explain. And that may be why the once impending Clinton Bush 2016 match up may be anything but that when the election finally comes around.

An Open Postcard to Hillary

Dear Hillary

Don't have much time right now so I'll keep this short, besides it's kind of a simple point anyway...

Even with your not so good Summer, with the media looking for scandals to report on rather than serious issues to cover, odds still are you will win the Democratic nomination. It may not be a slam dunk anymore, but you still have lots going for you. You are really really bright, you totally know the ropes, a lot of America yearns for a chance to elect our first female President, you've earned some honest liberal creds over the year to point to, and most people still think back fondly to the last time you lived in the White House.

You still can win this thing fair and square with your honor intact. But only if you call your sleaze hounds off of Bernie. It's fine to cite your differences with him of course. You can claim that Bernie's platform is out of step with mainstream America if that is what you think - beliefs on such things do vary. But Democratic activists have a particularly low tolerance this year for hit pieces against someone who most of us believe is fighting for us whether or not he can or even should ultimately prevail to win the nomination. If you end up with the Democratic nomination, you just might want us to bust ass for your election. That kind of covers it. Think about it, OK?

The under reporting of the Sanders presidential campaign serves Bernie well

Yes that is counter intuitive, and no the same thing can't be said for O'Malley, Webb and Chaffee, or for most of the Republican candidates for that matter. But unlike those other candidates, Bernie is already highly competitive where it currently matters, in Iowa and New Hampshire, and his national numbers have risen significantly over the course of the Summer. So as the post Labor Day "official" political season kicks off, Bernie Sanders is already established as one of the proverbial "first tier" candidates. Given the cumulative amount of and the dismissive predominant tone of the media attention paid to Sanders so far though it's not that surprising if most Americans haven't noticed it yet. Bucking conventional wisdom here I'll say that puts Sanders in a sweet spot. He represents a rare political phenomena. Sanders is an insurgent populist surging in political polls months before a single vote is cast, who is not on a trajectory to peak too early.

I've been tracking something interesting about how the media has covered Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump over the course of the Summer. In short it goes something like this. While the media and various political talking heads believed that the Trump ascendancy would be relatively short lived, prone to an inevitable bursting from an excess of hot air, the standard talking point was to pair Trump and Sanders as the angry bookends of the Right and Left. The public was said to be reacting emotionally in the heat of the early summer flirting with both men, blowing off some steam prior to actually examining their political viability and credentials in the cooler days of Fall. Trump and Sanders, in essence, were being politely dismissed as "light summer reading" before the school year resumed and the public had to "hit the books" in earnest. During that media phase an establishment agenda was covertly being advanced.

Neither Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders are trusted foot soldiers for the status quo but they have far from similar political personas. Leaving actual policy distinctions aside for the moment, which of course is the media default mode of coverage of presidential races to begin with, the two men could hardly differ more. With Trump it is first and foremost about his personal brand and advancing his belief that America needs him as a "Strong Man" to make us great again. With Sanders it is first and foremost about the issues he thinks matter to most Americans, and advancing the belief that the inherent power of the American people will ensure prosperity to our nation once the choke hold of the oligarchy is broken. As to personal temperament there simply is no resemblance. Trump shoots from the hip at anything and anyone, Sanders is always focused and deliberate. But bracketing Trump and Sanders as angry men at opposing political extremes seemed to neatly solve an establishment political problem; how to make them both go away.

The establishment thought Trump would implode under any real scrutiny so the media gladly offered him enough rope to hang himself. With the media portraying Sanders essentially as Trump's leftist doppelganger, that set Sanders up to become collateral damage when the Trump bubble burst and anger became discredited as a useful attribute of leadership. Except that Labor Day has come and gone now and Donald Trump continues to dominate the Republican field while Bernie Sanders climbed to the top of the Iowa and New Hampshire Democratic polls. Meanwhile a curious thing happened in the process. Once it became apparent that The Donald wasn't going anywhere, linking Sanders directly to Trump became suddenly less attractive. It began looking like the public's attraction to political outsiders might be more than just a summer fling. Sanders was becoming an even more potent threat to the status quo as his exposure grew so they changed tack, trying to keep him out of the spotlight to stunt his momentum, and turned to Plan B; as in B for Biden.

The Vice President is an acknowledged national leader with consistently held beliefs. In short he's no one's puppet. Biden's long standing political aspirations are his own and are not driven by a need to undercut any momentum Bernie Sanders had been building. But the media needed an alternative narrative to be dismissive of Bernie Sanders with. Rather than directly acknowledge the political power of Bernie's deeply held convictions, they focused on Hillary Clinton's alleged weakness instead with the implicit message that ordinary Democrats were turning away from Clinton rather than turning toward Sanders to explain Sander's increasing political traction. And rather than focus on the resonant substance of the policy message that Sanders espouses, the media turned to constant speculation about whether a “credible” alternative to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination may still lay out there in the form of the current Vice President.

The cutting off of political “oxygen” to a political campaign by minimizing media coverage of it, whether by design or mere happenstance, has been known to throw more nationally prominent politicians than Bernie Sanders into a death spiral that they could not climb out of. There are a number of presidential aspirants on both sides, whose last names are not Trump, Bush, Clinton or Biden, who have been significantly hobbled by the relative lack of publicity, whether mortally so is yet to be seen. Sanders though doesn't fit that mold, he has not been hobbled. Without even a good debate performance under his belt to point to, his trajectory remains upwards. Yet for most Americans Bernie Sanders continues to fly below the radar. This while his fund raising capacity keeps growing and his campaign infrastructure keeps expanding.

Most Americans won't seriously turn to presidential politics until early next year when actual caucuses and primaries begin to loom larger. That is especially true on the Democratic side where it was long believed that Clinton would win the nomination in a cake walk, and where the first Presidential debate still remains weeks away. The public will soon wake up to the undeniable fact that Bernie Sanders is now poised to win both Iowa and New Hampshire, and that he is indeed a serious contender to become the next President of the United States. And when that happens they will want to know a whole lot more about both Sanders and what he stands for. And when that happens, at exactly the right time on the political calendar for a political campaign to really hit its stride, Bernie Sanders will have the full attention of the American voters. And that is exactly what America's establishment has always wanted to avoid.

Animosity between candidate camps is IDIOTIC

There's no better way to put it without resorting to obscenities. I've been on DU since 2003, long enough to have endured repeated spin cycles during primary wars, and we've had some ugly ones here in 2003-4 and 2007-8. And I was right there in the trenches both times gaining a first hand perspective.

My nominee for the stupidest sentiment frequently repeated during candidate wars goes something like this:

"The behavior of supporters of Candidate X have made it difficult if not impossible for me to even consider voting for Candidate X". That's roughly the equivalent of someone saying "Those rowdy teens who hang out in the parking lot of the Seven Eleven in my neighborhood make me very unlikely to support free community college education."

I mean really, WTF? Sure this is much to be learned about a candidate from who s/he surrounds him or her self with - as in their closest advisers, as in their major donors who they become politically indebted to. And it might even be fair to throw in the unruly behavior of some garden variety grass roots activists: if the candidates themselves are actively and openly encouraging and condoning such behavior. But I can't think of a Democrat who is.

To the best of my knowledge none of us here on DU are seriously running for President. How sane and/or likable any of us might be has no bearing on the policies that anyone who actually is running for President will seek to advance once in office. However high profile any of us may become in our online discussion board virtual universe as an advocate for someone running for President - none of us literally represent the candidates unlit their official campaigns says otherwise.

If someone who I think is an asshole says that they support a politician who otherwise seems potentially reasonable to me I would have to be an idiot to rule that candidate out because of it.

Candidate advocates are particularly helpful in pointing those who are interested toward solid information about their candidate. And lord knows I understand from experience that candidate advocates have a legitimate role to play in debunking false information and smears hurled against the candidates we support. To make it personal though is dumb, and counter productive - except for a select few. And that select and relatively rare few intentionally play the role of provocateurs. For every real one of them there probably are a dozen or more sincere impassioned advocates for a candidate being heatedly swept up by the emotions at hand.

I don't waste my time trying to decide who is and isn't sincere since almost everyone is, and simply taking part in witch hunts trying to identify the rare exceptions to that plays right into the hands of any legitimate provocateurs, whose real purpose is to sap our moral and turn us against each other until we turn away from the political process in disgust.

Can't we all save each other some grief and cut right to the chase? Les than once in a blue moon we might get the chance to support a potentially viable candidate for President who we believe in our heart of hearts is the perfect person for that job. Ages ago I felt that way about RFK, and I still believe he was. Sometimes that person ultimately lets us down, which is the experience a number of my friends went through with John Edwards. More often though it simply doesn't play out the way we hoped for. Howard Dean for example fell short in 2004, and Al Gore decided not to run again in 2008 despite the fervent pleas of his enthusiasts.

Yes there will be exceptions, but come August 2016 over 90% of us who are active on this board will ultimately throw our support behind whoever wins the Democratic nomination for President against whoever the Republicans are running. I might guess wrong about some specific individuals, but I'm confident about that figure as a whole. Knowing that is true, can't we just skip the bitter divide theatrics that dominates DU primary wars? Satan isn't running as a Democrat this time around.

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