Monday, January 23, 2017

Ten reasons Barack Obama is clearly the best president in my lifetime

November 4, 2008. I stood cheek-by-jowl with hundreds of fellow Democrats at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, an electric current buzzing through the room as we all looked at a big screen TV up in the corner. After eight years of an astonishingly cynical and destructive presidency, we felt on the verge of a deep cleanse, a catharsis, a rebirth.

At 7:59 p.m. and 50 seconds Pacific Standard Time, as polls on the West Coast were about to close, a countdown appeared on the screen.

Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six.

Just like New Year’s Eve except the poignance of the moment was real, so much more freighted than the fairy dust of empty resolutions.

Five. Four. Three. Two. One.

The words “BARACK OBAMA ELECTED PRESIDENT” appeared on the screen and the room exploded with cheers and hugs and kisses and ecstatic smiles and sighs of relief and tears of joy and sky-high expectations.

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, how did he do?

Most criticisms of Obama come from small and misinformed people on the right who live in a counterfactual alternate universe (“Obamacare is a government takeover!!”) or well-intentioned people on the left who don’t understand how a bill becomes law (“Why didn’t he push single payer? What a sellout!!”), but detractors have some legitimate points.

In the two years in which he had Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, Obama wasted precious time trying to play nice with congressional Republicans whose sole aim was to block every item on his agenda. Massive numbers of deportations and raids on medical marijuana facilities continued through Obama’s first term. When punked by obstructionist Republicans in the 2011 debt hike fight, Obama unnecessarily offered major concessions—including cuts to Social Security—rather than try to use his powers under the 14th Amendment to circumvent Congress. Elements of his education policy, such as the push toward charter schools and standardized testing, bore much resemblance to Republican policies designed to undermine public schools. Worst of all, Obama locked into place much of the Big Brother apparatus erected by George W. Bush, from warrantless wiretaps to attacks on whistleblowers, powers which could truly threaten our democracy when placed in less scrupulous hands.

But no president is remotely perfect. Not Mount Rushmore alumni Thomas Jefferson, who owned over one hundred slaves, or Abraham Lincoln, who foolishly chose racist Southern governor Andrew Johnson as his running mate a year before he was assassinated. Not historians’ consistent consensus choice as the best president of the past century, Franklin Deleanor Roosevelt, who interned Japanese-American citizens in prison camps during World War II.

To be accurately assessed, presidents must be weighed on a curve, opposite other flesh-and-

blood men who have held the office, rather than judged against an ideal leader who exists purely in our imaginations.

By this objective standard, Barack Obama is clearly the best president in my lifetime.

I was born during Richard Nixon’s first term. Despite his foreign policy success in creating openings with China and Russia, and domestic accomplishments (e.g. The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts), Nixon is ultimately defined by being the only president to resign in disgrace.

His predecessor, Gerald Ford, achieved little and lost to Jimmy Carter.

Carter pointed the way forward on environmental policy, and worked miracles in the Camp David Accords—where he forged a lasting peace agreement between Israel and Egypt—but was politically ineffectual and too wedded to fiscal conservatism to get much done domestically, despite having Democratic majorities in Congress.

Ronald Reagan had a couple big things to his credit—brisk economic growth and a role in speeding the end of the Cold War—but had a long list of notable failings, from tripling the national debt accumulated by the 39 presidents before him to doing virtually nothing to stop the AIDS epidemic to heading an administration known for its “sleaze factor,” with over 100 officials who were indicted, prosecuted, or resigned under ethical clouds, to enthusiastically pimping the gospel of deregulation which led to the S & L crisis (and ultimately, the great crash of 2008).

Which leaves us with George Bush Sr., George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.

Between enabling the worst national security failure on continental soil by ignoring reams of intelligence warnings about Al-Qaeda, manipulating the fear generated by 9/11 (and the trust vested in him) to lie us into a disastrous war of choice in Iraq, gutting and privatizing FEMA and leaving New Orleans for dead in the days immediately after Katrina, and helping to usher in the most devastating economic crash in 80 years by deregulating Wall Street and being slow out of the blocks when the first shocks hit the housing market, George W. Bush is easy to dismiss. The only question is whether W. was the worst president in American history or simply one of the worst.

Bush Sr. signed the Americans with Disabilities Act put forward by a Democratic Congress, and gets some credit for winding down the Cold War. Otherwise he did little of note other than continuing to saddle taxpayers with the crippling deficits of the Reagan years and replacing civil rights giant Thurgood Marshall with Clarence Thomas, arguably the least qualified and most reactionary Supreme Court justice to sit on the bench since the departure of the segregationist judges that stalled Franklin Deleanor Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation.

Bill Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act, presided over record economic growth, and got our fiscal house in order after the profligate Reagan-Bush Sr. years, leaving the United States on course to be completely debt-free. But major legislation eluded him other than Republican bills such as so-called welfare reform, which stuck it to our most vulnerable citizens while doing nothing to solve the underlying causes of poverty, and The Telecommunications Act, which opened the way to more monopolies (see: Clear Channel’s acquisition and homogenization of one independent radio station after another).

Unlike all of the presidents mentioned above, Barack Obama combined grand accomplishments with little in the way of major shortcomings. Here are 10 of the many reasons Obama was clearly the best president in my lifetime.

1. Obama saved the United States—and by extension the world—from economic collapse.

The U.S. economy shed 818,000 jobs the month before Obama took office. At the time, it

was far from a foregone conclusion that things would get better any time soon; some feared a return to Great Depression-level unemployment of 25%.

Through Federal Reserve action to lubricate the economy and keep interest rates low, TARP legislation to steady our financial system, stress tests to monitor the stability of big banks, and passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the “stimulus” bill), which pumped close to a trillion dollars into the economy, the Obama administration stopped the free fall, saved 8.5 million jobs, and paved the way for a record 75 consecutive months of steady growth, a drop in the unemployment rate from 10%-4.7%, and a net gain of 10.5 million new jobs in eight years—more than three times the number of jobs created in twelve years of father and son Bush.

Obama also went against public opinion (and the braying of many Republicans) to prop up American auto companies, in the process saving 1.5 million jobs and putting the industry on a path to a healthy rebound, with record sales in 2015.

Republicans attacked Obama for the slow pace of the recovery, but the U.S. rebounded more strongly than all other developing countries but Germany, and job growth would have been more vigorous if not for austerity measures imposed by Republican state legislatures, whose Draconian budget cuts sent hundreds of thousands of public sector employees to the unemployment line.

2. In hopes of warding off another economic crash, Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act—with the help of just two Senate Republicans.

Building on the consumer-friendly tenor of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act Obama signed in 2009, Dodd-Frank includes protections for homeowners from predatory mortgage loans and transaction charges, limits on credit card fees, more transparency in derivatives trading, stronger capital requirements, oversight of debt collectors, credit agencies, student lenders, and check-cashing companies, and the right to sue banks who engage in predatory practices.

To set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at the heart of Dodd-Frank, Obama chose a then-unknown economic populist by the name of Elizabeth Warren. Alarmed at Warren’s passionate concern for consumer rights at the expense of obscene corporate profits, Republicans blocked her from becoming the permanent head of the agency, so she decided to run for Senate instead.

3. Like Bill Clinton before him, Obama cleaned up a Republican fiscal mess.

Advocating a second round of tax cuts for the rich in 2003, Vice President Dick Cheney countered treasury secretary Paul O’Neill’s fiscal objection to the cuts by saying, “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.” Cheney wasn’t claiming that tax cut-driven deficits were without consequence; he was simply pointing out that pissing away trillions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars on windfalls for the wealthy wasn’t a political liability.

Between tax cuts, steroidal defense spending, an expensive and yet inadequate prescription drug plan written by pharmaceutical company lobbyists, and a war of choice in Iraq, the Bush Administration, who had inherited record budget surpluses, left Barack Obama with a 1.3 trillion-dollar deficit.

After pumping stimulus into the economy to keep the bottom from falling out (see #1), Barack Obama reigned in spending and cut the annual deficit by three-fourths, leaving Donald Trump with a vastly better hand than he had been dealt.

4. Obama not only extended healthcare coverage to four million disadvantaged children through the Children’s Health Insurance Authorization Act, but

attained an elusive goal sought by progressive presidents for a century: passage of a bill to establish national health insurance.

Critics complain about insurance company rate hikes, but health insurance premiums for

most Americans are lower than they would have been without the legislation, in some cases lower than they were before the law took effect. And rates would be more affordable if not
for the Senate Republicans’ filibuster—which forced the bill’s negotiators to reduce subsidies to get the votes of conservative Democrats—and the unwillingness of many Republicans at the state level to put regulatory clamps on insurance companies’ greed.

Meanwhile, the benefits of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) are many. The bill keeps insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions and imposes annual and lifetime caps on the amount insurance companies can charge. It has reduced the number of Americans who have died from hospital errors and saved as many as 24,000 lives annually, brought the rate of uninsured young to a record low by allowing children to piggyback on their parents’ coverage up to age 26, decreased medical debt for the poor, forced insurance companies to cover substance abuse treatment, and brought us closer to funding parity for mental and physical health.

American women in particular have been big beneficiaries, as the ACA prohibits discrimination (in the form of higher premiums) against women and extends free birth control and preventive services—pap smears, breast cancer screening, and domestic violence screening—which have helped tens of millions.

Last but not least, Obamacare has provided healthcare coverage to twenty-two million Americans who otherwise would not have it—while lowering healthcare expenditures.

Yes, you read that right. TWENTY-TWO MILLION.

And the Affordable Care Act would cover millions more if it had been implemented as written. Due to Republican Supreme Court judge John Roberts’ decision to allow states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion portion of the bill, and the mean-spirited Republican governors who have refused to participate in the expansion—though the federal government is picking up the lion’s share of the costsat least 2.5 million American citizens have been denied the human right to healthcare that people in every other first world country have had for decades.

5. According to a report from the Council of Economic Advisors, which findings are echoed in a Congressional Budget Office assessment, President Obama has overseen "the largest increase in federal investment to reduce inequality since the Great Society.”

The Affordable Care Act, which received much of its funding from cuts to corporate welfare
A president of the people
in the Bush-era Medicare Advantage program, has overwhelmingly benefited poor Americans—through the expansion of Medicaid—and working-class Americans—through government subsidies which lower premiums. The ACA is just one of the many ways Barack Obama took on decades of skyrocketing income inequality created by technological change and Republican economic policies serving the investor class.

Rather than follow Ronald Reagan’s lead by sticking it to Americans in the bottom half of the economic ladder with grim budget cuts in the middle of a recession (when government assistance is more necessary than ever), Barack Obama helped tens of millions of struggling Americans in his first year through both the stimulus bill and his opening budget proposal, which was called a “Robin Hood budget.”

Included were child tax credits, tax credits for higher education, and an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit, big boosts in funding for school lunches, the Women and Infant Nutrition Program (WIC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP), senior nutrition programs, and childcare block grants to the states, and $60 billion to support cash-strapped local schools and reduce pink slips around the country.

Over the course of his presidency, Obama allocated generous amounts of money for early

childhood education, doubled Pell grants for college students, instituted income-based repayment of student loans and a program that forgives loans for people who go into public
service, and further reduced the cost of higher education by offering students government-direct loans through the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which cut out parasitic, private sector middle men.

Obama cut the number of homeless veterans in half and created federal rules to raise the minimum wage for employees of federal contractorsregulate drug prices, and give overtime pay to millions of Americans who otherwise would have been shortchanged by their employers

His Labor Department increased collection of back pay from unethical businesses by one third while his National Labor Relations Board consistently supported the right to organize, to howls from Republicans

His FCC appointees fought state laws allowing monopolization of broadband networks, expanded government subsidies to bring Internet service to the poor, and protected net neutrality, which keeps telecom companies from discriminating against average ratepayers and small businesses.

Between taxes levied on the wealthy to fund the Affordable Care Act and a 2013 budget deal with Republicans that raised the estate tax and increased the income tax rate on Americans making over $450,000 annually, the most privileged Americans now pay the highest rates since before Reagan slashed their taxes.

Unlike Republican economic plans, the results of Obamanomics have truly trickled down. As cited in a recent feature article in The Atlantic Monthly, “This month's Census data, one of the final report cards on Obama’s presidency, was historic in its optimism. It found that real median household incomes rose by 5.2 percent in 2015, also a record. Poorest Americans are seeing the fastest wage growth of all groups, not to mention the fastest wage growth they’ve ever experienced. After years of stagnation, average real wages are up nearly 6 percent since 2012, ‘more than all wage growth from 1973-2007.’”

And Obama did all of this despite unprecedented levels of obstruction from the GOP. Had Republicans not blocked numerous Obama proposals—such as a minimum wage increase, a proposal to create 1.9 million jobs, free community college, federal money for maternity leave, a national childcare program, and unemployment extensions—his already-historic record of investment in everyday Americans would be even more impressive.

6. Though major cap-and-trade climate change legislation was killed by Senate Republicans, Obama amassed a formidable environmental legacy.

Unlike the administration of George W. Bush, who chose extraction industry lackeys for environmental “protection” posts, Obama appointed a "green dream team" of top-notch

scientists who understood the mortal threat of climate change. In his first year in office, Obama removed a Bush Administration block on thirteen states that wanted to implement auto emissions standards which were stronger than federal standards, signed an executive order which made federal agencies and contractors significantly decrease fuel and water
consumption, and used the auto bailout as an opportunity to force automakers to double gas mileage in most cars and light trucks by 2025. He also invested $94 billion in green energy through the stimulus bill, half of which was matched by private money at a 2-to-1 ratio, adding up to a record $200 billion investment in green energy.

Over the following years, Obama reversed one Bush policy after another, allowing the regulation of carbon dioxide, smog, mercury, methane, and fracking. His Environmental Protection Agency was very busy—protecting waterways, reducing the amount of sulfur in gasoline, forcing emissions reductions from semis, buses, and planes. He made states who received federal disaster relief come up with climate change plans, initiated stricter standards for development on public lands through passage of the Public Lands Management Act, his “no net loss” policy, and an aggressive push to create national monuments, including “the largest protected place on the planet,” in his home state of Hawaii. He blocked drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as well as the expansion of the Keystone pipeline and the pipeline that would have plowed through a sacred Indian burial site at Standing Rock, North Dakota.

On a bigger scale, Obama played a key role in both the international agreement to ban hydrofluorocarbons and the Paris Agreement, a multilateral effort to lower the level of greenhouse gases, mitigate the impact of climate change on civilization, and incentivize a switch to sustainable fuels. As part of the Paris talks, Obama joined other world leaders in a green investment agreement with Bill Gates similar to the public-private partnership model used in the stimulus bill. 

The pivot from the toxic fuels of yesterday to the clean fuels of the future has been swift and revolutionary: when Obama took office, the United States got roughly half of its electricity from coal and only ten percent from renewables; today, the two are at rough parity, with renewables set to become our main source of electricity.

In the words of Rob Sargent, the energy program director for the advocacy group Environment America, “President Obama and his Administration deserve tremendous kudos for jumpstarting America’s clean energy revolution. Today we have 20 times more solar power and three times more wind energy compared to when he took office eight years ago, and energy efficiency is now more than a ‘personal virtue’—it’s the basis for our energy policy. History will judge the Obama years as the turning point in America’s shift to 100% renewable energy.”

7. After hemming and hawing on the campaign trail in 2008, Obama fully embraced gay rights as president.

During his first year in office, Obama signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which extended federal protections to the LGBT community. In 2010, Obama repealed Bill Clinton’s brainchild, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (the Pentagon, at Obama’s urging, would later

allow military chaplains to perform same-sex weddings and end its ban on transgender Americans). Also in Obama’s first term, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton played a key role in drafting the United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity agreement.

In Obama’s second term, the administration supported the Employment Non-Discrimination bill, but the legislation was killed by the GOP. Faced with congressional

Republicans stuck in the deep, dark closets of 1950’s America, Obama used executive action. Among other things, he extended Social Security benefits to same-sex couples and signed an executive order outlawing discrimination against LGBT Americans among federal contractors. His Justice Department gave police instruction on how to sensitively handle transgender Americans while his Employment and Opportunity Commission ruled that discrimination against transgender employees violates the Civil Rights Act. When the Supreme Court took up gay marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges, Obama’s Justice Department sided with the plaintiffs; both judges he appointed voted for marriage equality, and when SCOTUS ended institutional bigotry against our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, the Obama Administration celebrated by lighting the White House up in rainbow colors.

And all through his presidency, Obama appointed a record number of gay, lesbian, and transgender Americans to federal posts, including the first transgender White House employee and the second openly lesbian black judge, Staci Michelle Yandle.

8. Obama markedly improved the diversity and ideological bent of the federal judiciary.

Obama appointed more female judges than any president in history; among them were Supreme Court justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic SCOTUS judge. He also appointed the first openly gay black judge, the first Native American woman, and the first Asian judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

In all, Obama appointed one-third of the judges now on the federal courts, making for a much more just and forward-thinking judiciary than the one that existed when Obama took office, i.e. a court system more protective of a woman’s right to choose, gay rights, environmental protections, consumer rights, voting rights and civil liberties, and more responsive to the needs of the disenfranchised, the marginalized, and people who work for a living.

9. Barack Obama restored sanity to U.S. foreign policy and repaired America’s image abroad.

While running for a first term, Obama set the tone for his future presidency (and subjected himself to a lot of cheap criticism) by saying that he would be willing to negotiate with Iran without preconditions.

On his first day in office, Obama rescinded George W. Bush’s policy supporting torture; soon

after, he ordered the closing of black sites abroad which had been used for “enhanced interrogation.” He chose an Arabic television station for his first TV interview, and signaled his radical turn from Bush’s warmongering by admitting that when it came to policy in the Middle East, “all too often the United States starts by dictating.” In March of 2009, he followed through on his “controversial” campaign promise by publicly expressing a wish to put historical differences aside and engage with Iran, and in June, he gave a major speech in Cairo in which he said, “The United States is not and will never be at war with Islam.” In October, less than nine months after taking office, Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize.

Where Bush and his Republican Party supplicants and media jackals consistently used jingoistic terminology such as “Islamic terrorism” or “Islamofascism,” Obama spoke quietly but carried a big stick. Going against his advisers, Obama ordered the military operation that killed Osama bin Laden, who had gotten off scot-free in seven years of Bush the Younger. Obama also killed a long list of other Al-Qaeda functionaries, pulled us out of the quagmire of Iraq, ended Iran’s nuclear threat—first with international sanctions which coaxed Iran to the negotiating table, then through a historic peace agreement—reduced nuclear armaments through a new START treaty with Russia, and deep-sixed a long-outdated Cold War freeze-out of Cuba. The improvement in America’s image abroad from the Bush years speaks volumes.

10. In addition to saving the U.S. (and the world) economy from collapse,

regulating Wall Street, cleaning up another Republican fiscal mess, giving us a national healthcare system (finally!), routinely going to bat for poor and working-class Americans, protecting the environment domestically and taking on global climate change, treating LGBT Americans like actual human beings, vastly improving the federal judiciary, repairing America’s image abroad with shrewd foreign policy, and leaving the country infinitely better off than it was when he found it in just about every way imaginable, Barack Obama restored honor and dignity to the White House after the scandal-saturated administration of George W. Bush.

Unlike other recent popular presidents Ronald Reagan, who broke the law by trading arms for hostages and then lied to the public and Congress about it to cover his ass, or Bill Clinton, who jeopardized his whole presidency with unseemly personal behavior, Barack Obama did not have a single real scandal or substantial ethical lapse. For eight years, he was a model in class and dignity and honor, a living, breathing example of the best America has to offer.

On behalf of informed and enlightened citizens of the world: thank you, Obama.

are Still Celebrating the Long Overdue Departure of George W. Bush

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Charles Bukowski gives the best writing advice ever

So you want to be a writer?

if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything, 
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth 
and your gut,
don't do it. 
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or 
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of 
then wait patiently. 
if it never does roar out of you, 
do something else. 

if you first have to read it to your wife 
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend 
or your parents or to anybody at all, 
you're not ready. 

don't be like so many writers, 
don't be like so many thousands of 
people who call themselves writers, 
don't be dull and boring and 
pretentious, don't be consumed with self- 
the libraries of the world have 
yawned themselves to 
over your kind. 
don't add to that. 
don't do it. 
unless it comes out of 
your soul like a rocket, 
unless being still would 
drive you to madness or 
suicide or murder, 
don't do it. 
unless the sun inside you is 
burning your gut, 
don't do it. 

when it is truly time, 
and if you have been chosen, 
it will do it by 
itself and it will keep on doing it 
until you die or it dies in you. 

there is no other way. 
and there never was.

More Bukowski on Truth and Beauty:

Charles Bukowski's "The Laughing Heart"

Charles Bukowski's apocalyptic vision: "Dinosauria, We"

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Saturday, October 29, 2016

178 reasons Hillary Clinton is infinitely better than Donald Trump (even on her worst day)

"...on her worst day, Hillary Clinton will be an infinitely better candidate and president than the Republican candidate on his best day."

-Bernie Sanders

Hillary Clinton is the Rodney Dangerfield of American politics—no matter how much she accomplishes, she gets no respect.

Over the past year, I have encountered one person after another who dissed Hillary for purely subjective reasons. There was the ex who said on a long-distance call that establishment candidate Hillary would be a servant of the wealthy, while Donald Trump would be independent because he was so rich that he couldn't be bought. The client who told me between puffs of his cigarette that he couldn’t stand Hillary because he hated her fake smile. The online acquaintance who dismissed how significant Hillary’s election would be to women worldwide because Hillary had stayed with a philanderer and gotten this far by simply “riding her husband’s coattails.” The feminist who said over coffee that she wanted a female president, but not Hillary, because I don’t trust her. The former co-worker who referred to Hillary's "trail of corruption" on a Facebook feed but couldn't cite any significant scandals when pressed. 

And these people are all quite happy with Barack Obama, whose center-left agenda and technocratic orientation are virtually indistinguishable from Hillary’s.

What gives? 

Clearly, the Republican Party has done such a masterful job demonizing Hillary for the past 25 years that many otherwise intelligent people have a visceral dislike of her.

But far more relevant than surface-level perceptions is the weighty matter of how a Clinton presidency would differ from a Trump presidency. To answer this, we need to ask a few simple questions. Where have the candidates been (how much governing experience do they have)? Where are they going (what are their policy proposals)? Do they have the temperament to take on the toughest job in the world? Everything else is just noise.

The answer to the first question is a no-brainer. The presidency is not an entry level job, and when it comes to governing experience, there is no comparison between the two candidates. 

Donald Trump has never held public office (1) or shown a remote interest in public service of any kind (2). Trump’s sole claim to being qualified for president is his business experience, but he is not self-made (he began with a million-dollar loan from his father), he had to be bailed out by his father in 1980 (3), he claimed losses of almost a billion dollars in 1995 alone (4) in order to dodge his taxes (5), and he has left a trail of wreckage behind him, including thousands of frivolous lawsuits (6), jilted clients (7) and contractors (8), and multiple bankruptcies (9). Even Trump’s foundation, one of the few reflections of concern for other human beings, was used as a piggy bank to fund a contribution to the Florida attorney general, in a flagrantand illegalattempt to make charges against Trump University go away (10). 

Setting aside the fact that there is no historical correlation between business success and effectiveness in the Oval Office, if Trump is so sure he can "run government like a business," why is he the first presidential candidate in the modern era to refuse to release his tax returns (11), which would presumably reveal his business acumen? Could it be because Trump's business "performance has been mediocre compared with the stock market and property in New York," according to The Economist? We may never know.

By contrast, Hillary has a more impressive public service resume than anyone who has run for president in several decades, or perhaps ever. 

As a teenager, Clinton set up a babysitting service for migrant workers (12). 

During her undergraduate years, around the time future war hawk Donald Trump was
Hillary at Wellesley
avoiding military service in Vietnam, Hillary became class president at Wellesley (13), where she was the first student to deliver a commencement speech (14), which address she used to advocate for radical social change (15).  

While in law school, Hillary volunteered at Yale's Child Study Center (16), served as a state coordinator for George McGovern, arguably the most progressive general election candidate in American history (17), and went undercover to investigate discrimination in Alabama schools for the Children's Defense Fund (18).

In 1973, the same year Trump was sued for refusing to rent to blacks in his rental apartments (which would happen more than once, 19), Hillary was one of just 27 women in the Yale Law School class of 235 (20). Rather than making a money grabas Trump did by going into real estate out of collegeHillary chose to be the only woman on the team of lawyers tasked with impeaching Richard Nixon (21).

When Bill Clinton moved back to Arkansas to pursue a political career in 1974, Hillary had a choice. She could stay in D.C. and pursue her own sizable ambitions, or go with Bill. She chose Arkansas, and marriage, but she was no simple political wife, entirely beholden to her husband's career. 

While in Arkansas, Hillary taught law (22) and served as Bill’s top consultant in his two years as attorney general and 12 as governor (23). She took on the major project of reforming Arkansas' sub-par public education system (24), co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families organization (25), chaired the Arkansas Educational Standards Committee (26), and served on the boards of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital (27), Legal Services (where she was the first female to chair the board, 28), and the Children’s Defense Fund (29). Hillary also juggled a career as a lawyer at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, where she was the first full-time female partner (30); she excelled in this role, making the National Law Journal list of most influential lawyers in 1988 and 1991 (31).  

In the '90s, while Donald cheated on his first model/wife, divorced her, married and
Hillary fights the good fight for universal healthcare (1994)
divorced another model, made and lost boatloads of money, and began trolling beauty pageants, Hillary further beefed up her policy credentials by becoming the most active first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt. She valiantly led the fight for universal healthcare (32), but was stopped by the GOP and their parasitic allies in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. Picking up the pieces afterward, she played a role in passing both the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability law (HIPAA), which allowed people to keep their coverage when they switched jobs (33), and later the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) law, which extended coverage to eight million disadvantaged children (34). She also had a hand in crafting a bipartisan measure that helped foster children (35) and used her clout as first lady to deliver a forceful speech on behalf of women's rights in China (36). 

And instead of bragging about herself non-stop, as Trump did in his most famous (ghostwritten) book, The Art of the Deal, Hillary wrote about the importance of society banding together to help children reach their full potential  in It Takes a Village (37), the audio version of which netted her a Grammy Award.

In the '00s, during which time Trump made and lost more money, married a trophy wife, continued to troll beauty pageants, and hosted a reality TV show, Hillary ran against Republican (and future Trump supporter) Rudy Giuliani for an open Senate seat in New York. When his poll numbers tanked in the wake of a divorce scandal, trash-talking Giuliani dropped out of the race rather than face the ignominy of losing to Hillary. Hillary beat the fallback Republican, Rick Lazio, by double digits, becoming the first woman to be elected senator of New York (38). 

In 2001, the Clinton Foundation was founded. It would go on to provide AIDS medications
Hillary sworn in as the first female senator from New York
to nine million third world people in need (39), raise life expectancy for poor women in developing nations (40), and receive a cherished A rating from Charity Watch (41). In that same year, Hillary began her Senate career. As a senator from New York, among other things, Hillary would secure $21 billion to rebuild Manhattan after 9/11 (42) and help get benefits for reservists and National Guard members deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan (43), one of her many efforts on behalf of vets.

Halfway through her Senate career, in 2005, Hillary was named to the National Women’s Hall of Fame (44).

In 2006, Hillary received the overwhelming confidence of her New York constituents, winning re-election to the Senate by more than a 2-to-1 margin (45). 

Not content to be a popular and accomplished senator, Hillary ran for president in 2007. Despite getting more votes than Barack Obama (46), she lost the primary. Rather than mope around or cast blame, she campaigned for Obama in the fall of 2008 and accepted his offer to become secretary of state (47) the following year, after first co-sponsoring 
Madam Secretary
the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (48), which amended arbitrary timelines placed on lawsuits related to gender discrimination in employment. 

As a secretary of state, Hillary helped push the Pediatric Research Equity Act, which forced pharmaceutical companies to be more careful about the drugs they market to children (49). She was also involved in the Women in Public Service Project (50), a State Department partnership with all-female colleges geared to bringing more women into the public sector.  

In 2012, just before stepping down as secretary of state, Hillary  created the “Saving Mothers, Giving Life” initiative to fight infant mortality in sub-Saharan Africa (51). That same year, right after it was announced that Barack Obama had won a second term, Trump claimed that Obama's five-million-vote landslide was "rigged." (52)


Now that we know where the candidates have been, let's examine where they plan to go. It's no secret that presidents wield immense power, making thousands of decisions that impact not only 320,000,000 living Americans, but future generations, not to mention billions of people abroad. Hillary Clinton’s governing agenda forms one decision tree and set of human consequences, Trump’s forms another; more than any other criteria, rational, informed adults will base their vote on the contrasting results of these two decision trees. 

To justify not voting for the Democratic candidate this fall, some on the left have peddled the
notion that there is a major policy chasm between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. In this framing, Hillary is "Republican light," closer to Trump than she is to Bernie Sanders. 

As Bernie himself has said many times, this contention is wildly false. While they were both in the Senate, Hillary and Bernie voted together 93% of the time (53). Far from being "Republican light," Hillary was the 11th most liberal senator (54), placing her to the left of three-fourths of the Democratic caucus and all of the Republicans. 

Clinton now leads a Democratic Party that put up its most liberal platform ever last summer (55). With some exceptions, Clinton promises an extension of the center-left direction of Barack Obama, and she might fight harder for some progressive priorities

On the other side of the aisle, Trump heads a GOP that appears to be hurtling backward, a party further to the right on many issues than previous Republican leaders who were considered extreme at the time, such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush (56).    

Over the course of the campaign, Clinton has released a long list of progressive proposals that offer a stark contrast to her Republican rival, including policies dealing with the reform of drug laws (57), assistance to caregivers for the elderly and disabled (58), prescription drug imports from Canada (59), autism (60), drug and alcohol addiction (61), Alzheimer's disease (62), and healthcare for veterans (63). 

Clinton plans to protect and build on Obama's signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act (64), which has brought healthcare to 20 million Americans who would otherwise not have it. Trump wants to repeal the act, and with it coverage for millions of Americans (65). He promises to replace the law, but has provided few specifics about what he would replace it with.

While Clinton has rolled out workable education reform proposals for both K-12 and college students (66), Trump has offered the stale Republican orthodoxy of tax write-offs and "school choice" (privatization) which would in many instances violate the separation of church and state by using public funds for religious organizations (67). 

The candidates' positions on taxation are radically different. Clinton would pay for her targeted social investments with tax increases on the wealthy, including a steep tax on real estate interests (68). Trump has proposed a tax plan that could add ten trillion dollars to the debt in its first decade (69) and further increase America's sky-high income inequality by slashing taxes on corporations and multi-millionaires (70), including Trump himself, who would gain a massive windfall if his proposal became a reality (71).  

Clinton, who presciently advocated stronger oversight of Wall Street before the crash of 2008 (72), has vowed to enforce the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Barack Obama’s bill to reign in Big Finance (73), and proposed further regulations of financial interests, a plan endorsed by Elizabeth Warren. Trump, who routinely foams at the mouth about the evils of regulationeven food safety regulationswould follow the long-time GOP playbook of letting Wall Street police itself that gave us The Great Depression and the Great Recession of 2008 (74). 
The candidates diverge sharply on environmental issues. Clinton, who has received endorsements from the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the League of Conservation Voters (75), would continue Obama’s impressive green legacy by supporting investments in clean energy (76), strong environmental regulations (77), both national and international efforts to combat climate change (78), and the creation of national monuments (79). Trump, whose energy policies were created by extraction industry lobbyists (80), has claimed climate change was a "Chinese hoax" (81), attacked the Obama Administration repeatedly for steering the U.S. away from dirty, dirty coal (82), and said he would get rid of Obama's plan to force utilities to use cleaner fuels (83), a policy Clinton supports (84). And, like Republican predecessors Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, Trump would most likely appease GOP allies and campaign contributors by underfunding the Environmental Protection Agency, appointing staff with hostility to the environment to key posts, and gutting environmental regulations (85). 

More than anything, Trump owes his candidacy to his promises to get tough on illegal immigrants, inflammatory and dishonest words which have particular resonance with
Trump launches his campaign by scapegoating Mexicans
uninformed white people who are geographically remote from the Mexican border (86). If we are to take him at his word, Trump would deport immigrants at will (87) and initiate the construction of an enormously expensive wall (88) that would alienate us from our neighbors. Hillary Clinton supports a much more balanced, comprehensive immigration reform plan (88) which would enhance border security, help bring people out of the shadows and into society (and the tax base), allow families to stay intact, and require far less in the way of government resources (taxpayer money). 

Mexican-Americans aren't the only people of color who would be harmed by a Trump presidency. While Hillary has met with the mothers of black victims of police violence (89), Trump has exploited white privilege (and ignorance, 90) with constant dog whistle statements about "law and order," just as Richard Nixon did in 1968 when leveraging white Southern anger over the Civil Rights Act. Among Trump’s policy ideas to restore order is support for stop-and-risk laws (91) which were ruled unconstitutional, as they inordinately impact black and Latino Americans.  
Though claiming to support law and order, and frequently referring to inner cities as hellish, Trump has offered nothing of substance to deal with America's epidemic of gun violence. Where Clinton has suggested limited, common sense gun control proposals (92), Trump has bragged about his NRA endorsement and demagogued the issue (93), at various points saying he would sign a law allowing guns in school zones on his first day in office (94), ludicrously claiming that Clinton wants to “end the Second Amendment” (95), and implying assassination by saying that “Second Amendment people could act against Hillary Clinton (96).” 

And where Clinton would use her Justice Department to challenge Republican voter ID laws (97) passed with the sole intention of disenfranchising people of color (laws Clinton's lawyers have already sued to overturn in court, 98), Trump supports these bills (99), and the lies that underpin them. Trump repeatedly claims that we should be on the watch for voter fraud on November 8, when in fact the far greater (and only real) problem will be voter suppression, which may disenfranchise 1.3 million voters in the swing states alone (100). Changing the composition of the federal courts could kill these pernicious measures outright, particularly if Clinton was allowed to choose one or two Supreme Court judges.
Trump would also try to codify bigotry by treating gay and lesbian Americans as second-class citizens. While Clinton has received the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign for supporting marriage equality and other priorities of the LGBT community (101),  Trump has vowed to rescind Obama’s pro-LGBT orders (102) and sign legislation allowing discrimination against the LGBT community (103) very similar to the "religious freedom" bill his running mate Mike Pence signed as governor of Indiana (104).  [Governor Pence also backed conversion therapy intended to convince LGBT individuals that they should be straight (105) and opposed needle exchange, which exacerbated an HIV outbreak that later occurred in Indiana (106).]

A Trump presidency would be a disaster for American women. 

Trump has embraced an eleventh-hour pro-life stance (107), and even spoken of the need to punish women who exercise their reproductive rights (108). Clinton, on the other hand, would protect a woman’s right to choose through Justice Department enforcement of clinic
access laws (109), lawsuits against states that try to limit choice (110), and the appointment of judgesto both the Supreme Court and the lower federal courtswho would protect Roe v. Wade (111). 

Trump has expressed a wish to kill funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that Hillary has always backed 100% (112), for which she received their endorsement during the Democratic primary (113). Remarkably, Trump’s running mate Mike Pence may be even worse than Trump on women’s issues. While still in Congress, Pence introduced the first measures to de-fund Planned Parenthood (114), which he brought up on several occasions (115); as governor, his wish came true (116). Governor Pence also signed a bill that required funerals to be held for aborted fetuses (117).

In addition to appointing reactionary right-wing judges who would take us back 50 or 60 years (or more), a President Trump would appoint a host of noxious Republicans to government positions, just as George W. Bush did. Trump suggested he would name New Jersey governor Chris Christie (best known for causing a major traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge out of political spite) chief of staff (118) and Trey Gowdy, the hyperpartisan lightweight who helmed the kangaroo-court Benghazi hearings, to be the attorney general of the United States (119). As an added bonus, Trump would like to name Rudy Giuliani, the quasi-Fascist former mayor of New York City who implemented stop and frisk (see numbers 38 and 91), the head of the Homeland Security Department (120). By contrast, Hillary could be counted on to fill most appointments with seasoned professionals who would take the historic missions of their agencies seriously (121).


Amazingly, Trump may pose more danger to U.S. foreign policy than he does to American domestic policy, where he would at least be checked by Democrats in Congress.

His opponent, Hillary Clinton, spent eight years traveling abroad as first lady (122) and logged more miles than any secretary of state in U.S. history (123). As secretary of state, her diplomatic skills contributed to many successful policies, including but not limited to the
"The worst major-party candidate
 this republic has ever produced"
international sanctions that coaxed Iran to the negotiating table (124), the deal itself (125), in which Iran gave up their nuclear aspirations, the normalization of relations with Cuba (126), the START Treaty with Russia (127), and the climate change agreement in Copenhagen (128). Trump, called "the worst major-party candidate this republic has ever produced" by the non-partisan magazine Foreign Policy (129), is so ill-suited to being commander-in-chief that 50 Republican national security officials said Trump "would be the most reckless president in American history" and endorsed Hillary Clinton (130). 

Based on his steady stream of bellicose rhetoric, Trump threatens to return us to the policies of George W. Bush that eroded our alliances and lowered America’s standing in the world (131). Trump has frequently attacked the Iran peace deal in hyperbolic terms, and while Clinton has promised not to send troops to Iraq or Syria, Trump the Draft Dodger (see number 13) has delivered one saber-rattling line after another, continually referring to Barack Obama’s caution about sending other peoples' sons and daughters into harm's way as “weakness” (132). In addition to talking tough about ISIS non-stop, Trump has said he won’t protect NATO allies who don’t “pay up.” (133) 

While Barack Obama, like other presidents before himincluding conservative Republican Ronald Reaganhas worked to reduce nuclear stockpiles around the world, Trump suggested that Japan and South Korea should join the nuclear club (134).

Where Hillary Clinton has promised to follow the Geneva Accords with regard to captured enemy combatants, Trump said that we should go back to waterboarding (135) and even killing the families of suspected terrorists (136), and suggested that the United States should expand the prison at Guantanamo Bay which has been an international disgrace to the U.S. (137).

Trump, like many seemingly straight Republican males, has demonstrated a bizarre man crush on Russian president Vladimir Putin, denying the Russian government's hacking of
Democratic officials (138), praising Putin's leadership (139), and claiming Russia wasn't in the Ukraine, even though they had annexed Crimea (140). 

Aggressive military actions, thumbing our nose at allies and international human rights norms, and palling around with Putin are unlikely to maintain the international good will Barack Obama has spent eight years patiently restoring in the wake of George W. Bush's cowboy unilateralism. The best we can hope for if Trump gets elected is that we find out he was kidding this whole time in order to appeal to his paleoconservative base. 


"I don't like to analyze myself because I might not like what I see"

-Donald Trump

Years ago, Theodore Roosevelt was described as having “a second-class intellect, but a first-class temperament.” The implication was that though there had been smarter men in the
Oval Office, Roosevelt’s cool head more than made up for it. Exhibiting grace under pressure (i.e. having a strong character) is a prerequisite for a successful presidency. 

To distract the American public from the issues that matter, the Republican Party has spent tens of millions of taxpayer dollars (and hundreds of hours of taxpayer-funded
The face of perpetual adolescence
congressional investigations) trying to  attack Hillary Clinton's character with half-baked claims that she is corrupt, dishonest, untrustworthy.  
The allegations of corruption are brazenly hypocritical, as Clinton is a Girl Scout next to Richard Nixon (Watergate), Ronald Reagan (Iran-Contra) and George W, Bush (WMD lies), and Trump has a sizable record of corruption himself. 

The rap on Hillary's honesty is equally dubious. Clinton, a record 20-time winner of Gallup's most admired woman award (141), has high marks among fact checkers, getting the same ratings for honesty as Bernie Sanders (142), while Trump is shown to lie more often than he tells the truth (143). Trump is so dishonest that his bankruptcy lawyers met with him in pairs so that he wouldn’t be able to twist their words afterwards (144).

As to character, Hillary Clinton has consistently maintained her composure in high profile, high pressure roles as first lady, senator, secretary of state, and as a presidential candidate, where she took a scalpel to Trump in three successive debates (145). Despite decades of very personal and often unfair attacks from the left and right, Hillary has not broken (146). By contrast, Donald Trump has repeatedly blown up at the smallest personal slights (147) and revealed the personality of an adolescent who views women as little more than sex objects.

Long before Trump re-posted classy Tweets such as “mplefty67:  If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” (148), or questioned Hillary Clinton’s “stamina” (149), or had his surrogate Rudy Giuliani (see numbers 38, 91,
and 120) level ageist insinuations about Hillary Clinton’s physical health (150), he made multiple appearances on Howard Stern’s show, where he received the sobriquet “Donald the Douchebag.” In his role as Donald the Douchebag, Trump showed no objection when Howard Stern referred to his daughter as “a piece of ass” (151) and when asked if his daughter had gotten breast implants, Trump said, “She’s actually always been voluptuous.” (152) In another interview with Stern, Trump said it was “check out time” for women once they turn 35 (153).  

Long before the video revelation that a 59-year-old Trump had bragged about being able to grab womens’ pussies because he was a star (154), Trump called Miss Universe “an eating machine,” (155) said it was hard for a flat-chested woman to be a 10 (156), claimed he could have “nailed” Princess Di not long after her untimely death (157), and told an attractive contestant on his reality TV show, “That must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees.” 

Long before 12, 13, 14, 15-and-counting women came forward with accusations against Trump of improper physical advances (158), his hostility toward women spilled over into public feuds (159) with Rosie O’Donnell (whom he called “a fat pig”) and Fox News host Megyn Kelly

Trump’s prejudices have not been limited to women. He first dipped his toes in murky political waters when he played to the racist Republican right by questioning the location of Barack Obama’s birth (160), a conspiracy theory that had been thoroughly debunked years earlier, then later "took credit" for getting Obama to release his long-form birth certificate (161). 

Trump went from a novelty candidate to the Republican frontrunner by referring to Mexicans as “rapists” (see number 86). He later extended his nativist-baiting to Muslims,
opposing the immigration of refugees from Syria’s civil war to the United States (162), even supporting an outright ban on Muslims (163). At other times he proposed an ideological litmus test for new immigrants (164) and racial profiling based on religion (165).

Lest anyone wonder if these were just short-term campaign stunts geared to stirring up the primitive emotions that dominate Republican primaries, Trump doubled down on prejudice with two of the most suicidal moves of the general election campaign:  questioning the integrity of a Mexican-American judge (166) who was presiding over a case related to Trump University (see number 10) and engaging in a series of Twitter attacks on the Gold Star family of a Muslim war hero (167). 

Sadly, Trump's bigotry is not limited to Mexicans, Muslims, or women. 

In February, Trump refused to condemn the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke (168), an enthusiastic supporter. In July of this year, Trump tweeted an image of a six-pointed star next to a pile of money for Hillary Clinton (169), afterward denying the clear anti-Semitic intent of the Tweet (170). In September of this year, the former spouse of Trump’s campaign manager, Steve Bannonan accused wife-beater (171)said that Bannon had kept his daughters out of a school because there were too many “whiny” Jewish brats there (172). Not surprisingly, Trump, who has re-tweeted posts from white power groups (173), has the backing of white supremacists (174).    

And that’s not all. 

In addition to insulting Mexicans, Muslims, women, and Jewish-Americans, Trump
famously mocked a disabled reporter (175) who had the gall to point out that Trump had lied about New Jersey Muslims celebrating the events of 9/11 (176), then later claimed he hadn't been aware that the reporter was disabled, though they had known each other for years (177).

Women, Mexicans, Muslims, Jewish-Americans, and the disabled are far from alone, as Trump has issued hundreds of petty insults on Twitter (178, see above photo).

In sum, if you want the lowest common denominator in the White House, an emotionally-stunted narcissist and braggart with serious anger management problems and racist, sexist, and Islamophobic tendencies, an entitled, right-wing demagogue with backward, mean-
spirited, and dangerous ideas and no government experience, whose policy knowledge could fit on the head of a pin, Donald Trump is your man. 

If you prefer inclusion, decades of hands-on experience, a  steady temperament, a first-class mind, and forward-thinking policies, pull the lever for Hillary Clinton. 

For Americans who care about the future, the choice is clear.