Conspiracy Theories v. Facts!

Conspiracy theory: Altoona,  PA August 12, 2016:  Donald Trump is talking to a packed friendly crowd  about the election in November.   He warns, “ The only way we can lose, in my opinion — I really mean this, Pennsylvania –is if cheating goes on.”   The  audience erupts with loud boos.  He goes on to ask for volunteers to “watch the polls on November 8.”  “There’s an application form on my campaign website. Help me stop Crooked Hillary from rigging this election!”

Facts: For several weeks, Trump, after a disastrous month since his convention, has been in free fall in the polls.  Clinton holds a double digit lead in Pennsylvania.  The suburbs around Philadelphia show a 40 point margin for Clinton.  Historically, Republicans have never won PA in a presidential election since l988.   Thus, his bogus claim is a way to create anger among his followers when he loses, amid chaos at polling places on November 8.

Reponsible poll watchers are chosen by both parties  at presidential elections all over the country.  The last thing needed is an inundation of rabid Trump supporters arriving on November 8 with charges that the system is “rigged”.  

Conspiracy theory : Donald Trump has been questioning Hillary Clinton’s  “physical and mental health and stamina” in interviews and at rallies .  His campaign aides have been claiming that “Hillary Clinton is sick , perhaps dying! “  They don’t identify any specific illness.   A video of a stumble she took is posted so that viewers can see “how weak” she is.   Trump often comments that “Hillary is sleeping.”

Facts: Clinton has been keeping a vigorous campaign schedule, with coast to coast meetings, speeches and very successful fund raising events.  Her trips span California to Massachusetts. She does not rent arenas for huge rallies  as Trump does.  She speaks to groups that Trump has avoided, like the NAACP  and the Urban League to reach African American leaders.  And the press conference for Latino reporters to reach Hispanics nationwide.  Clinton’s  energy  and strength are evident in the television coverage of these events.  She also has given important  detailed speeches on economic development and foreign policy.  Anyone watching and listening would find it impossible to believe that she is very ill or dying.  When she pauses and asks , “Are you tweeting, Donald”, we know she hasn’t lost her sense of humor.

Both Clinton and Trump released health reports from their physicians  in 2015. There is a distinct contrast between the documents.   Donald  Trump released a four paragraph statement from his enterologist in December .  It contained no details about his heart or respiratory rate,  Cholesterol level or medications.   His blood pressure was 110/65; laboratory test results were described as “astonishingly excellent”.  The doctor, Harold Bornstein of Manhattan, concluded that Mr. Trump, if victorious, would be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency”.   This claim was met with wide skepticism as unprovable and unscientific.

Hillary Clinton released a detailed two page letter from her physician, Dr. Lisa Bardack of Mt. Kisco, NY  in July, 2015 . It included her vital signs of heart, respiration and blood pressure as well as information about a concussion she suffered in 2012 which left her with double vision.   Dr. Bardack said those symptoms were resolved within two months.  She also issued a statement in late August, 2016  that Mrs. Clinton “is in excellent health and fit to serve as president of the United States.”   She did this in response to fake  documents that were circulated claiming that Clinton had suffered seizures with memory loss after her concussion.  It is not known who circulated the fake documents.

Conspiracy theory:  Donald Trump labeled The Clinton Foundation as a “pay for play” organization that Hillary Clinton promoted as Secretary of State to foreign donors for millions of dollars.  At a rally in Akron Ohio in late August, he stressed the “criminality” of her actions to benefit the Clintons  personally.  Cries of “Lock her up!” arose from the crowd as he called for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate.  CNN,  Fox News and MSNBC focused on the “breaking news” of the latest Clinton  “scandal”.

Facts:  The Clinton Foundation was established in l997 by Bill Clinton after he left the presidency.  It is a non-profit corporation dedicated to global initiatives to improve the lives of men, women and children across the world.  Since it began, significant programs include building health and wellness, eliminating  H. I. V. and AIDs  in Africa and Asia,  rescuing children from hunger and famine in  third world countries and improving women’s independence in their societies.  Most Americans are probably unaware of the valuable work the foundation has accomplished since it was founded.  The cable news anchors and panels rarely include those facts in their coverage.  They run clips from Trump’s daily tirades about Hillary and The Foundation.  He appears frantic to change the subject from his disastrous previous month and  low poll  numbers.

Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State traveled millions of miles to 112 countries , rebuilding the low image of the United States that the George W. Bush wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had left.  When she met with foreign leaders such as the Crown Prince of Bahrain, it was part of her job.  It was not to solicit funds for the Clinton Foundation as  the Trump team declares.  Bill Clinton has already made very clear that donations  from foreign countries will cease if  Hillary becomes president.  It is a given that neither she nor he would hold positions with The Foundation.

Conspiracy theory: Clinton e-mails are once more in the news.  Judicial Watch, a far-right conservative advocacy group, has been trying to compel Clinton to testify in person under oath about her e-mails.  A federal judge ruled that they should submit written questions to her within a month to be answered by her within a month in writing.  This would run the calendar through October past November 8.  A second focus on her e-mails is from the State Department reviewing  15,000 emails from her total that have already been reviewed.  Why they are doing this is not clear.  Third is the House Oversight Committee’s return to their Benghazi hearing to discover if Secretary Clinton committed perjury when she testified  before them for a marathon 13 hours!  Republicans in charge are determined to discover that some of her testimony does not agree with her testimony to the F.B.I.  which Director Comey said was “truthful.”

Facts:  Bernie Sanders declared to Hillary Clinton in their first debate,”The American people are sick and tired of your damn e-mails! ”   She laughed, thanked him and they shook hands.  He was probably right then and now. Polls show that most voters are focused on the economy, immigration, security and foreign affairs.  Donald Trump  and other opponents continue to dredge up Benghazi.   Ambassador Stephens’ father said after his son died, “I do not want his death to become politicized.”  Unfortunately, his mother spoke emotionally at the Republican convention, blaming Hillary Clinton directly for his death.   A current Trump ad shows Benghazi burning with Hillary laughing in the background.

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Excellent source on Conspiracy theories vs. facts :  Brennan Center for  Justice, New York University Law School .  A non-partisan  public policy Institute.  Check their verified information on lack of fraud in presidential elections.  Practically non-existent!  All the Voter I.D. laws passed by Republican legislators to prevent “fraud”  have served to suppress the votes of  African Americans, Hispanics, young, old and disabled voters.

 

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Let Trump Be Trump!

 

On Wednesday, August 17, Donald Trump named a new campaign chief executive, Stephen Bannon,  chairman of the Breitbart News website.  Breitbart , on the far right of conservative media has attacked the Republican establishment in D.C,  savaged Hillary Clinton and backed Trump in his racial insults toward Mexicans and Muslims.

Trump has chafed for months as the RNC urged him to pivot to a “presidential presence”  by giving speeches on the teleprompter and avoiding off the cuff remarks. However, since his disastrous convention, he has done just that.  On August 9 at a rally in North Carolina, Trump charged that “Hillary wants to abolish the Second Amendment.”  “If she gets to pick her judges. Nothing you can do, folks. Although Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know….”  Within minutes, the words went viral across the nation and the world.  Trump had suggested with his wink– wink habit that Second Amendment people (translate to gun owners) could use their guns to silence Hilary Clinton!   The Secret Service held several conversations with his campaign after that remark.  Trump denied that occurred.

Within days, Trump delivered another shocker, claiming at a huge rally that “ Barack Obama was the founder of ISIS and Hillary Clinton was his MVP.”   When a conservative radio host tried to give him a way out the next morning, saying, Obama had removed our troops and Isis moved in, Trump cut him off.   “No”, he insisted,  “Obama was the founder of Isis and Clinton was also a founder.”  Again, this bizarre false comment went viral, becoming the big story in all parts of the globe, especially the Muslim nations.  Since Trump had been the main advocate of the Birther movement, it is understandable that people overseas paid attention to his latest fabrication.

As July turned into August, Trump’s poll numbers plunged nationally and in swing states.  He was losing by double digits in four national polls as well as New Hampshire, Virginia and Colorado.   Forecasters were predicting Hillary over 300 electoral votes in November while Trump was under 200.  270 electoral votes are the winning  number.  She continued her ad campaigns in all swing states, with emphasis on Trump’s attacks on John Mc Cain as a captured pilot, not a hero– disabled people and the Gold Star Muslim Kahn family whose son died in Iraq.

On the weekend of August 13/14  Donald Trump asked Stephen  Bannon of Breitbart News to meet with him and offered him the position of chief executive of his campaign.  Trump had told Time magazine, “They would like to see me modify… I don’t like to modify.”  He knew that Bannon  agreed with him completely,  based on quiet advice he had been receiving from him for months.  Trump also hired Kellyanne Conway, a veteran pollster as campaign manager.  The second major shake-up in his campaign was complete.

 

Meanwhile on August 16, an important article ran in the Science section of The New York Times.  The title: “Analyzing Trump”.   It centered on a manifesto against “Trumpism”  posted on line in June by Dr. William Doherty, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota.  A copy of the manifesto was printed with the article.   “Attention Therapists”  at top in red.  Second line: “Are you increasingly alarmed by Donald Trump?”  Third: “Do you recognize that he represents an ideology ( let’s call it Trumpism) that won’t go away even if he loses?”    Below- Trumpism:  with four defining points.  1 is antithetical to everything we stand for as therapists.  2 is inconsistent with democracy, the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, and with emotionally healthy living. 3 promotes hyper-masculinity, public hostility, the cult of the Strong Man, and the denigration of women. 4 presents a threat beyond a single election ; the next demagogue may be less outrageous – and thus even more dangerous.

“It’s time that we say these things publicly and not just behind closed doors.”  “This isn’t about liberal or conservative. It’s about our American democracy.”

Postscript:  As of Monday,  August 15,  2,200 mental health professionals had signed the manifesto.

Hillary Clinton had a very successful convention, followed by a sizable upward ‘bump’ in the polls.  She and Senator Tim Kaine, her running mate, left on a four day bus tour that attracted  large enthusiastic crowds in swing states.  Her speeches always included strong concerns that “Donald Trump has neither the temperament nor the experience to be President of the United States nor commander in chief with access to the nuclear codes.  She is not the only one to voice this conclusion.  Fifty GOP senior security officers had signed a letter on August 8, declaring that Donald Trump  “lacks the character, values and experience to be president” and  “would put at risk our country’s national security and well being”.  They warned that “Mr. Trump would be the most reckless president in American history” and “ Mr. Trump has shown no interest in educating himself.”  They concluded, “None of us will vote for  Donald Trump.”

Opponents over the years have tried to derail Hillary Clinton as she fought for Health Care for Children and the American people.  They created conspiracy theories that were all disproved: ‘Whitewater’, ‘Travel Gate” and “Benghazi”.   Clinton  withstood eleven marathon hours with a hostile Republican Benghazi oversight committee, never losing her cool.  Now they are trying to create a new charge that her e-mail comments to them were not ‘truthful’.   As  one who listened to the eleven hours, and agreed with the headlines that “Clinton cleaned their clock’, let me write “Give us a break!”  She was an outstanding Secretary of State, traveling millions of miles to 112 countries to rebuild our reputation that George W. Bush lowered with his “shock and awe” invasions and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  No one was more devastated and saddened by the deaths of Ambassador Stephens and the other Americans than Hillary Clinton.   Stephens’ father warned  that he did not want the death of his son “politicized.”  That is exactly what the Republican Benghazi committee and the party have done.  Shame on them!  Is there no sense of decency left in their dreadful political campaign.

It appears that we need  to fasten our seat belts and get ready for the next weeks and months  in the Donald Trump campaign. It will be planned and executed by Stephen Bannon.   He is described as a no- holds- barred operative who “loves the fight”.  “Fear is a good thing”, he said in a 2010 interview.  “Fear will lead you to take action.”  We will all find out if a strident,  accusatory, ugly campaign turns off the moderate American voters, more than half of whom are women— who usually decide presidential elections.  We will know on November 8 if Hillary Rodham Clinton is going to win this election and be the first woman President of The United States.

 

General Election Update: Clinton v. Trump

 

The Primaries and the Conventions are over.  August, September and October lead to November 8, election day.  The cicadas are up in the trees and making almost as much noise as the candidates on the campaign trail.

Donald Trump has been in a free fall in the polls, with Hillary Clinton leading by double digits in national polls as well as swing states like New Hampshire at 17 points.  The Republican establishment is described as “in chaos” as they urge the nominee to stop attacking and causing controversies.  Certain staunch Republicans have jumped ship, like Meg Whitman and Senator Susan Collins of Maine.  Whitman has endorsed Clinton and will help raise $$ .  Collins said she was “ dismayed” by Trump’s attacks on a disabled reporter, Judge Cruel and the Kahn  gold star family. She will not vote for him.

On Monday, August 8, Fifty Republican senior national security leaders signed a letter declaring that Donald J. Trump “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president” and “would put at risk our country’s national security and well being”.  They warned that “Mr. Trump would be the most reckless president in American history” and “ Mr. Trump has shown no interest in educating himself.”  They concluded,  “None of us will vote for Donald Trump.”  This group includes Michael Hayden, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, C.I.A., Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, former  Homeland Security secretaries and Robert Zoellick, former deputy secretary of state.

“Breaking News” flashed across the three cable networks with panels focused on each powerful charge made against Donald Trump.  Although Trump had just presented his revised economic plan, using the teleprompter and dealing with 14 protest interruptions earlier in the day in Michigan,  this story stole the spotlight.  By late Monday, the Trump campaign responded sharply.  Trump issued a statement, saying that the signers of the letter were “the ones the American people should look  to for answers on why the world is a mess, and we thank them for coming forward so everyone in the country knows who deserves the blame for making the world such a dangerous place.”

Hillary Clinton was holding a rally on August 8 in Florida and issued no public comment on the letter that day. However, it was clear that  most of their charges echoed her main arguments against her opponent:  that Trump’s temperament makes him unfit for the position and he should not be trusted with the nuclear arsenal. She made her own headlines by accepting the three debates proposed by the bi-partisan commission.  Trump has indicated he might not take part in the debates since they were scheduled on the same dates as football games. She challenged him to accept and meet her on those dates:  Monday, September 26, Hofstra University,  Hempstead New York; Sunday , October 9, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri and Wednesday, October 19, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada.

Tuesday, August 9 at a rally in North Carolina, Donald Trump charged, as he has before, that “Hillary wants to abolish the Second Amendment, essentially abolish the Second Amendment.”  He then added, “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks.  Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”  Within minutes, these words went viral, spinning out across the nation and the world.   The cadence was mixed, but the message was frighteningly clear.  Donald Trump had suggested with his wink… wink habit of throwing zingers out to thousands of adoring listeners that “Second Amendment people” (translate to gun owners) could use their guns to silence Hillary Clinton!

His supporters have shouted “kill her” when he mentions her name at rallies.  They  chanted “Lock her up” over and over at the Republican National Convention.  A New Hampshire delegate, Al Baldasaro, made headlines when he called for her to be shot for treason by a firing squad.  All of this behavior led up to the moment when Trump invoked the “Second Amendment people”  and the image of a man with a gun instantly flashed through every listener’s mind.

Tim Kaine,  Hillary’s running mate expressed disbelief.  “Nobody who is seeking a leadership position, especially the presidency, should do anything to countenance violence and that’s what he was saying.”  Other commentators on the cable networks were  blunt.  Michael Hayden, former C.I.A. director, said , “If anyone else had said that, he would have been put into the police wagon.” Many others called for Trump to be rebuked by all Republican establishment figures: Paul Ryan,  Mitch McConnell, John Mc Cain.  The Trump campaign insisted he was talking about “political unification” where the “Second amendment people” would take political action.  This strange rationale fell flat as historians like Jon Meacham castigated Trump as “Temperamentally unfit for office” based on his thinly veiled call for violence against his opponent.

Wednesday, August l0.  Banner headline under CNN news broadcast: “Secret Service has talked to Trump Campaign.”  Crawl underneath: “Official: Multiple conversations about Second Amendment remarks.”   Donald Trump speaking at an afternoon rally in Virginia returns to the subject that has ignited a firestorm across the country, saying “The second amendment is under siege.  We have to protect our second amendment rights.”   Both statements receive thunderous applause.  He goes on to attacking the “dishonest press” for twisting his words. Then segues to  “Hillary’s lost 33,000 emails and illegal server.”  Boasts of how unified the party is and how “the race is tightening.”  (4 major polls show Clinton with a double digit lead nationally.)

Hillary Clinton is speaking at the same time in Iowa.  She notes that “Some people get a little carried away. (Guess who she is thinking about.) I get carried away about creating new jobs and small businesses.”  She then mentions how “ Trump stiffs small business people and refuses to pay his bills.”  She stops walking with her mike, lowers her voice and says,  “Words matter, my friends. Words can have tremendous consequences.”   Huge applause erupts as she continues. “Yesterday, we witnessed the casual incitement of violence. We have heard Donald Trump insult the disabled and the gold star father and mother with casual words, said off hand.  Does he have the temperament to be president and commander in chief?” Thunderous “No!”

As she continued her speech,  a man suddently rushed toward the stage! Secret Service men raced to stop him from reaching her.  Hillary stood still and  remained calm. They caught and removed  the man, an animal rights activist seeking attention.  Hillary finished her speech, stressing we are “Strong Together”.   An essential fact, often omitted from criticisms of Trump’s incendiary remarks is that Hillary Clinton has NEVER called for the Second Amendment to be abolished.  First he told an incendiary lie and then he attacked her on it. Donald Trump  probably doesn’t even know that Prohibition is the only amendment to the Constitution ever repealed.  He has a lot to learn about the Constitution of the United States.

Khizr Kahn: American Patriot

Barack Obama, a young first term senator from Illinois,  burst into the public’s consciousness with his keynote address to the  Democratic National Convention in 2004.  He stressed, “We are not red states and blue states. We are the United States of America.”  This year, his wife Michelle Obama, excited the delegates in Philadelphia with a powerful story of history, progress  and optimism.  When she said,  “Every day, my family wakes up in a house built by slaves”,  the truth and drama of that fact brought thousands to their feet, cheering, clapping and crying.  Donald Trump, in contrast, ended the Republican National Convention in Cleveland with a marathon 75 minute mix of doom, gloom and fear.  He abandoned any Reaganesque sunny picture of “morning in America”.

The speech that will probably be remembered as the blockbuster of both conventions was not given by a famous political figure.  On July 28, the last night of the Democratic convention, Khizr Kahn, with his wife Ghazala by his side, addressed the delegates.  The Kahns are Muslims who emigrated to the United States from Pakistan in l978 with their three sons.  They are the parents of Army Captain Humayun Khan, 27, who was killed in action in Iraq in 2004.  Kahn told his troops to “stand back” as he approached a suspicious vehicle across the sands.  The suicide bomber in the car detonated the bomb as Kahn came near.   Kahn was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart posthumously for his courage and protection of the soldiers under his command.

Khizr Kahn, who received a graduate degree from Harvard Law School, spoke slowly and with great dignity that night. He took on Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric toward Muslims and his call to ban Muslims from entering the country. He said,“Trump smears the character of Muslims.”   Then, he posed a piercing question directly to Trump,  “Let me ask you, have you even read the U.S. Constitution?”  The delegates’ cheers escalated as he reached into his jacket for a small booklet and held it up.  “I will gladly lend you my copy. Look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law’. Have you ever been to Arlington National Cemetery?  Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending the country. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.” he added.

Responses to Kahn’s speech were immediate on social media and by commentators who  praised his powerful words, and questions. Yet, Donald Trump, we have learned, does not take kindly to criticism.   He told George Stephanopulous  of ABC ,  that  Mr. Khan seemed like “a nice guy” and wished him “the best of luck”.   However, “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices .  I work very, very hard.  I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve done – I’ve had –tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.”   Stephanopolous interjected, “Those are sacrifices?”  Trump answered, “Oh, sure. I think they’re sacrifices.”.  He then touted his work to help build the Vietnam War Memorial in Manhattan.  He also added, “ If you look at his wife, she was standing there, she had nothing to say, she probably — maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say.  You tell me.”

Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued a statement,  “For ANYONE to compare their ‘sacrifice’ to a Gold Star family is insulting, foolish and ignorant. Especially someone who has never served himself and has no children serving.  Our country has been at war for a decade and a half and the truth is that most Americans have sacrificed nothing. Most of them are smart and grounded enough to admit it.”

Within days, an outpouring of criticism of Trump’s attacks on both Kahns exploded in newspapers, television and social media.  John McCain  in a long statement sharply rebuked the Republican nominee: “While our party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.”   Senator McCain’s  daughter, Meghan McCain said on Twitter: “I would ask what kind of barbarian would attack the parents of a fallen soldier, but oh yeah, it’s the same person who attacks POWs.”  She was, of course, referring to Trump’s flip comment months ago that “captured soldiers” were not heroes.  That included her father whose plane was shot down by the enemy. He then spent five years in the “Hanoi Hilton”, the prison where he was tortured.

On Friday, Ghazala Khan spoke about her son in MSNBC’s “The Last Word”.  She was in tears as she said she told her son “be safe, and don’t become a hero for me. Just be my son and come back as a son.’ He came back as a hero.”   ` Mrs. Kahn also told Lawrence O’Donnell she “cannot even come in the room where his pictures are.”  She saw his photo on the screen behind her on the stage in Philadelphia, “I controlled myself. It is very hard.”   Mr. Kahn revealed in the same interview, “ I also wanted to talk about  how he’s had three wives and yet he talks about others’ ethics and their religion.  I wanted to say 10 other things about him, and she said, ‘Don’t go to his level. We are paying tribute to our son.”

Hillary Clinton, spoke from her bus tour on Saturday, “ I was very moved to see Ghazala Kahn stand bravely in support of her son on Thursday. This is a time to honor the sacrifice of Captain Kahn and all the fallen.”   Sunday, in a church in Cleveland, Ohio, Clinton reprimanded Trump, saying: “Mr. Kahn paid the ultimate sacrifice in his family, didn’t he? And what has he heard from Donald Trump? Nothing but insults, degrading comments about Muslims,  a total misunderstanding of what made our country great.”   Kahn appearing on “Meet The Press”, said  Trump showed disrespect to his wife, and accused him of running a campaign “of hatred, of derision, of dividing us.”

Ibrahim Hooper, the spokesman for The Council on American-Islamic Relations, said: “It’s really despicable that anyone, let alone a presidential candidate, would choose to dishonor the service of an American who gave his life for this nation. Ms. Kahn was obviously there to support her husband who was offering what many people believe was the most impactful speech of the entire convention.”

By Monday, August 1,  Khizr’s speech and  Donald Trump’s feud with both  Kahns was still the number one story on CNN, MSNBC and newspapers across the country.   It was matched by Hillary Clinton’s  seven point bounce from the Democratic Convention, giving her a clear lead over her opponent.   Mr. Kahn and his wife have touched the hearts and minds of millions of Americans.  They have put human faces on the Muslims that Donald Trump has been demeaning for months.

A final twist to the state of this presidential race is that Donald Trump has declared that the debates are “rigged” and he may not take part in them.   Although the bi-partisan Commission had published the schedule for three Presidential debates and one Vice Presidential debate in September, Trump  NOW has said the conflict with football games is his reason.  Perhaps, it’s an attempt to change the subject from the Khans.  It certainly serves to reinforce his unstable temperament   and character– unfit to be a candidate for President of The United States.