The Siberian Candidate

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Here’s what we know:

  • Russian state actors hacked the DNC
  • Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort worked for several strongmen, including the now-deposed Ukranian strongman who was backed by Putin
  • Trump has effectively disavowed NATO, which strengthen’s Putin’s hand in Eastern Europe
  • Trump has repeatedly publicly praised Putin
  • Years ago, Trump moved The Miss Universe Pageant to Russia
  • Putin has a history of interfering in other nations’ elections
  • Julian Assange of Wikileaks has admitted he timed the release of the DNC e-mails to maximize damage to Hillary Clinton
  • Trump has encouraged the Russians to further hack the United States to benefit his campaign against Clinton
  • Trump has met with Russian oligarchs regarding real estate developments
  • Trump has said both that he has never met Putin and that he got along well with Putin
  • Trump recently denied having business interests in Russia, but his sons Donald Jr. and Eric have directly contradicted him in the past
  • In violation of the practice of all presidential nominees from both major parties since 1972, Donald Trump continues to refuse to release his tax returns
  • Intelligence and diplomatic officials have expressed shock at Trump’s disavowal of NATO and his encouragement of Russian espionage

It appears quite possible that Donald Trump as President would put Mr. Putin in a very strong position to influence US security.  Trump could provide partial reassurance to the public were he to release years of tax returns, but he’s not likely to do that.  Given his intransigence and the risk of Russian influence over him, entrusting Trump with the presidency is unthinkable.



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Senator Sanders and Progressives Know: We Must Win

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For anyone arguing that there is no difference between the two major parties, let’s remember that Sen. Sanders, Sen. Warren, Sen. Brown, Sen. Franken, Leader Pelosi, Rep. Lewis, Rep. Clyburn, and many activists, academics, mayors and state officials are transforming the Democratic Party before our eyes.  Leaving now  would lead to the Nader 2000 effect: a Trump victory, immediate failure on all issues progressives care about and a long-term failure on any issue that would go before a Trump-Scalia style Supreme Court.

Sanders has won immediate victories:

  • The most progressive platform in Democratic history
  • Proof that small-dollar donations matter
  • Raising issues that no one could have raised so effectively
  • Bringing new voters to the polls
  • The roll call vote affirming that Sanders has a major role in the party
  • Newfound stature for Congressional progressives
  • A model for progressive candidates all the way down to the local level
  • The resignation of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz from the DNC
  • A reduction of super-delegates by 2/3rd, down to ONLY people actually elected to office
  • Agreements with Secretary Clinton on debt free college, the minimum wage and a public health option

Senator Sanders called on progressives to unite behind Hillary Clinton because he knows she is on the his side of the issues, including climate change, worker rights, reproductive rights, gun reform, infrastructure, education, LGBT rights, Dodd-Frank, the CFPB, Obamacare, prison reform, immigration reform, equal pay for equal work, and the TPP.

But there is something more going on.  President Bill Clinton appointed Justices Ginsberg and Breyer to the Supreme Court.  The Court is now locked 4-4.  If Clinton wins, it is likely that Republicans will confirm Judge Garland, a moderate, to replace the extremely conservative late Justice Antonin Scalia.  To have any chance to succeed on campaign finance reform, gun reform, immigration reform, certain aspects of health care, and equal protection for all under the law, we need a balanced Court.  Trump will appoint a Scalia clone if he gets the chance.  Assuming Justices will retire to coincide with a term of a president they like (as they always do), another Scalia will prevent progress on a myriad of issues critical to the progressive movement.

Beyond that, electing Trump, a racist, misogynist, xenophobic bigot would validate every shot he has taken at Hispanic, African, Native female, Jewish, and Muslim-American citizens as well as the undocumented.  Validating that culture will eviscerate a generation’s worth of cultural progress.  His bigotry is antithetical to democracy, peace and justice.  Hillary Clinton is committed to equal rights under the law and equality in our culture.  She has never said the kinds of things Trump repeats almost daily.

We. Must. Win.






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The Greatest Threat to the US is Trump’s Republican Party

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They lie about Benghazi.  Multiple Republican House Committees and all other investigations have found no fault in anything Secretary of State Clinton did regarding Benghazi.

They lie about e-mails.  No reasonable prosecutor would bring charges, according to a Republican FBI Director who served in the most recent Bush Administration.

They lie a about economics, ignore climate change, promote coal, and the Iran Deal.  They’re bigoted against black people, Hispanic people, women and the LGBT community.  They promote violence against protestors, massive budget busting tax cuts for the rich, defaulting on the national debt, starting a trade war, letting Wall Street run wild, the NRA’s death-cult agenda and shedding the NATO Alliance.

The Republican Party has never sunk so low.  If it takes the White House and holds the Congress, America’s greatness will be gone and some of the lasting damage to the climate, the culture and the rule of law will be beyond repair.

After this week, it is obvious that the Republican Party is a mortal threat to the United States’ economy, environment and security.

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No Exaggerating the Threat

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So when’s the book burning?  Right.  You have to own books to burn them.

This is the most bigoted, retrograde, fascist, authoritarian, anti-intellectual, backward-thinking Republican Party in history.  It’s endless: Rudy looking seriously deranged, Melania delivering a plagiarized speech with nothing in it to show a warm side of Trump he does not have, Trumps kids lauding him without delivering anything to really give you a sense of who he is, an insane mob shouting “lock her up” despite the fact that a Republican partisan FBI head and multiple Republican House Committees gave them nothing to chew on but a criticism over e-mail security practices likewise carried out by previous Republican White House and State Department staff and officials, an elderly grieving woman manipulated into believing things about Secretary Clinton she did not believe when she first spoke of losing her son and who has been contradicted by every all but one of the Benghazi victims’ family members who would speak on the record.

No policy statements.  An empty hall during both Joni Ernst’s speech on Monday night and by 8pm last night.  The Colorado delegation’s revolt and walkout.  B-level soap opera stars, racists, sexists, C-level celebrities almost as desperate for attention as Donald Trump.  Congressional leaders cowardly caving to Trump while some conservatives of stronger character either reject Trump or at least stay away from what Senator Ben Sasse called a “dumpster fire.”  (I give credit to Sasse, Governor Kasich, Romney, both Presidents Bush, Jeb!, Senator Graham, Senator Flake, Governor Haley, Bill Kristol, Glenn Beck, and George Will for at least having the guts to stand up to fascism when they see it).

I have never said this about a candidate or a party before, but Trump and the 2016 Republicans are a clear and present danger to the future of the United States.  If Trump wins, the likelihood of another Great Depression will increase substantially, the world will no longer look to the US for leadership, the deficit will climb beyond control, violence against both police and innocent suspects will increase, terror will increase, inequality will reach unsustainable levels, bigotry will be socially acceptable and the Supreme Court will become his fascist legacy.  In short, the chance for a restoration of the peace and prosperity of the 1990s, the last chance for solving the threat of climate change and the pivotal rejection of bigotry this country needs for all people to be full citizens (the disabled, black people, Hispanic people, women and LGBT people) will be lost for a generation.

No one will take this sitting down.  If we lose this election, some will still fight Trump and the Republicans.  But the fight will be for delaying climate change, not solving it.  The fight will be to reduce poverty, not solve it.  The fight will be to repair the bigotry’s society-wide wounds, not to end crush bigotry itself.   The fight for health care for all will be lost for generations and Iran will have no incentive to refrain from building a nuclear program – unless there’s a war, an incredibly more likely scenario under Trump.  And the Supreme Court will be the same institution that stole an election and opened the floodgates for the worst among us (like Trump) to legally bribe America into oblivion.

Realizing that, some will leave the fight and move to friendlier, more progressive countries (New Zealand, Australia, Canada, South Korea, Denmark and many more nations would be far more livable than Trump’s America).  But America would be diminished, regardless of how many progressives are left to fight for American ideals of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, freedom, justice, equality and tolerance.

Compare that to Clinton’s America circa 2017: we’d have rejected bigotry, lies, climate denial, inhumane cuts to the social safety net and nuclear brinksmanship.  We’d have a Supreme Court with a new moderate swing Justice Garland instead of an Alito clone.  We might have a new Congress committed to progressive ideals.  And we’d have a President fighting for economic justice, against Wall Street corruption, for a higher minimum wage, against polluters, for a public health care option, for debt-free college for middle class and poor kids, for a lower deficit (Trump’s tax plan increases it by $9.5 trillion over 10 years), for immigration reform, for prison reform, for union rights and for an America respected around the world rather than resented and resisted.  If you think this sounds pie in the sky, compare the party platforms and the candidates’ policy positions.

Sometimes differences are clearer than the media let on.  Watching the GOP Convention has been oddly educational – Trump and his ilk really are as awful as the most partisan progressives have said.  You cannot exaggerate this threat.

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The NRA & Congressional Republicans: Accessories to Mass Murder

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Thoughts and prayers are not enough.  We need comprehensive gun reform now, but the NRA and the US Congress are too corrupt to do anything about it.  That doesn’t mean we don’t keep pressuring, introducing bills and advocating for change because change comes from persistence and timing.

And one thing has changed for me since Newtown.  I’m not giving those who oppose universal background checks, limits on magazine clips and an assault weapons ban the benefit of the doubt anymore.  Events like the massacre in Orlando prove that ISIS-inspired attacks are continuing and we must attack that with improvements in intelligence, law enforcement and internet advocacy (we need to be counteracting radicalizing elements on the web).  But it doesn’t take much analysis to know that the guiding principle everyone should be able to agree on is that NO ONE outside of the military or law enforcement should be able to kill a large number of people in a short amount of time.

If you want the ability to kill large a large number of people in a short amount of time, the fault lies with you.  It’s not a political difference of opinion, a problem with ideology, a lack of knowledge or a philosophical point of view.  It’s morality.

It goes without saying that this was a hate crime, but it was a hate crime enabled by the NRA and its supporters.

A hunting rifle can’t do what happened in Orlando.  The guns used to kill 49 people and wound 53 others were purchased legally by a man who had been interviewed three times by the FBI.  They didn’t have what they needed to arrest him nor did they have the legal mechanics necessary to stop him from purchasing the weapons he had.

We’re not going to agree on everything.  I have no problem with people having shotguns and hunting rifles, but we need to be specific to counteract the argument that doing something will lead to a slippery slope whereby all guns would be confiscated and banned (of course this is crazy, but if Donald Trump has proved anything, it’s that some people are persuaded by crazy).

We need universal background checks, limits on magazine clips, a comprehensive assault weapons ban (yes, that includes semi-automatic and automatic rifles), a ban on sales to anyone on the terrorist watch list or under investigation for terrorism, a ban on sales to and possession and by those guilty of domestic violence, a ban on sales to convicted violent felons, a federal gun buy-back program, liability for gun manufacturers who fail to make their products safer in keeping with updated technology or industry practice, a gun registry to track guns used in crimes, a reporting requirement for stolen guns, trigger locks requirements in keeping with technological improvements, tags on explosives and ammunition, liability for adults who entrust weapons to children or the mentally ill who use them in crimes or acts of negligence, requirements that people keep guns locked and away from kids, and a restored ability of the federal government to study the gun death epidemic.  We need strict concealed carry limits and no open carry anywhere so that law enforcement officers know trouble when they see it.  We need gun purchases limited to one per month to make gun running less lucrative.  And no 3D printing at home.  We should consider whether semi-automatic guns of any type should exist at all.

None of this limits one’s use of rifles, shotguns or even handguns in the extremely unlikely event that a gun is properly used in self-defense.  It doesn’t effect hunting, collecting or target shooting – again – unless you want the ability to kill a lot of innocent people very quickly.  This puts an end to slippery slope arguments, which rely on vague scare tactics.

We need to make it clear that interest groups and politicians who do not support the basics are not just wrong, they’re morally bankrupt and they’re part of the problem.  By “the basics”, I mean universal background checks, no guns for domestic abusers or violent felons, no guns for those on the terrorist watch list, and limits on magazine clips.  All of these basic provisions have broad support, are backed by research and will save innocent lives without impinging upon even the late Antonin Scalia’s extremist view of the 2nd Amendment.  Everything else I’ve proposed has varying levels of support to the extent that they’ve been polled, but it’s time to stop pretending that the NRA and its supporters have the interests of good people at heart.

There was a good guy with a gun in Orlando as there was at Columbine, but that didn’t stop dozens of innocent people from getting killed.  If you enable people like the Orlando, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Virginia Tech and countless more killers to murder thousands of innocent people every year, you are an accessory to mass murder.  The NRA and those on its Congressional blood money payroll are guilty as charged.


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Are You Really an American?

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This should go without saying: racism and sexism have been discredited.  They have no place in the democracy both for the damage they do to individuals and because they directly contradict the basic democratic inherent in a democratic system that all are equal under the law, that government is to be by the consent of the governed as determined by free and fair elections, and that the popular will can only be determined when all are permitted to participate.

Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Gloria Steinem, Susan B. Anthony, Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, Robert F. Kennedy and countless others fought (and some died) for furtherance of these basic democratic principles.  If you vote for a candidate who turns his back on these historic figures, inflicts decay on the culture of equal justice under law and marginalizes millions of people, you are just as guilty as the candidate.

If a party nominates such a candidate, your responsibility as a voter is to reject that candidate.  That’s not the same as embracing his opponent.  You can write in someone else, vote for a third party candidate or leave a blank while voting in down ballot races.  And you can come back in four years with a candidate who stands within the basic spectrum of American democracy’s principles.

But you can’t empower a bigot without being a bigot.  You cannot say “I’m not a bigot” while voting for a bigot simply because you don’t like the non-bigoted candidate who happens to be his opponent.  The Republican Party has disqualified itself from this presidential election by nominating for President someone who merely by holding the position would normalize the denigration of the very principles upon which democracy, and American democracy in particular, is based.  You would be knowingly undoing the work of our country’s moral giants, rendering the nation less worthy of their sacrifices.

Perhaps worst of all, you would be gutting America’s written and unwritten Constitutional principles that make the American system function as well as it does: democracy, freedom, equality and justice.  A fascist might do that.  A bigot might do that.  No real American would do that.

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Where Sanders & Clinton Supporters Need to go from Here

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Sanders Supporters:

The primary is effectively over, but the movement need not be over.  Hillary Clinton’s lead among pledges delegates (not talking super-delegates) is insurmountable.  Clinton’s lead in total votes is also insurmountable.

Caucus votes cannot, by definition,  be counted among total voters, but the states that make up caucus states are smaller and would not overcome Clinton’s popular vote lead given that she won California, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, and huge swath of Southern states.  Sanders supporters believe in opening up democracy to all people, but caucuses do the opposite: the shift worker can’t attend, the single parent who can’t get child care can’t spend hours at a caucus as the rounds of caucus voting continue, and those without adequate transportation or who cannot drive at night are often left out in the cold as well.  Caucuses are a terrible way to pick a nominee and Sanders’ advantage in caucus states are more a feature of the demographic make-up of those generally smaller and whiter states as well as the fact that young people who do not have kids at home or who do not work at night are most likely to attend.

And you can’t blame “closed primaries.”  Bernie Sanders announced his campaign in April of 2015.  In the most restrictive “closed primary” state, New York, supporters had until October to change party registration to Democrat or they could’ve voted as first-time registrants by registering even later than that.  Beyond that, parties exist so that people of shared values can put forth a candidate who is reflective of those values. Why should those who do not share those values select that candidate for those who do?

It wasn’t rigged.  Sanders simply finished second in a race that briefly had five candidates.

It’s time to make demands, but also to unify in the fight against Trump.  Only Clinton will ensure that the Supreme Court does not get a Scalia clone to replace the most regressive Supreme Court Justice in recent history.  If Republican Senators are smart if Clinton wins, they’ll confirm President Obama’s nominee, Judge Garland.  He is at least a moderate, if not a progressive.  If Republicans are stubborn after a Clinton win, she’ll have he chance and a mandate to either re-nominate Garland or select a progressive in the mold of President Bill Clinton’s appointment: Notorious RBG (Ginsberg) – who progressives love.  And that means that fighting gun violence, combatting climate change, getting money out of politics, worker rights, and restoring the Voting Rights Act all hang in the balance.

And Clinton agrees on raising the minimum wage (not as high, but Trump won’t do it at all), climate change (Carol Browner was an excellent EPA Administrator for Bill Clinton and is on Hillary’s convention platform team), gun reform, opposing Keystone XL, opposing TPP, and a host of other issues.  We can win all of this if we come together and fight the bigot at the top of the Republican ticket (The Bigot Ticket).

Clinton Supporters:

We won.  Congrats.  But it doesn’t matter if we lose to Trump.  We share Bernie’s concerns about the big banks, climate change, getting money out of politics, fair pay and a lot of the other things he talked about.  Bernie supporters are more supportive of Hillary than Hillary supporters were of Obama in 2008 at this time and it is very possible to unify the party, but you have work to do.

First, support either Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown or Tom Perez is the choice for Veep.  All are great progressives.  I’d prefer Warren because she has proved to be the most adept at attacking Trump, which is a necessary quality for a vice presidential candidate.  However, Perez is fantastic on civil rights and labor issues (and adds ethnic diversity to the ticket), Brown is great on labor rights (and can help win the swing state of Ohi0) and Bernie has a yuge number of committed supporters.

Second, make it clear that the vice presidential candidate has a unique ability to set his or her own agenda a bit.  This has to be a unique relationship for a unique campaign year.  If Sanders supporters think he VP candidate is merely going to parrot the candidate, that’s not good enough.  The VP candidate has to have the freedom to hold his or her own positions in an effort to influence Secretary Clinton.  Those who do not believe Clinton is progressive enough need to know that the VP candidate is going to be able to serve as a check if Clinton veers too far right – the price for doing so is that the VP will separate on that issue.  That’s not common in modern presidencies.  Clinton is not a socialist and should not have to debate her own VP on a philosophical issue, but having Bernie or Warren or Brown or Perez in the room with the ability to go off message if the administration goes off track on fighting for an issue like bank regulation or the minimum wage will keep the progressive movement alive within the administration and on the outside.

Third, let Bernie’s people win platform influence on climate change, worker protections, diversity and other issues.  We agree on most of these issues and the platform should reflect that.  Israel will be a sticking point, but as long as Netanyahu thinks that he can attack the Obama administration and breach proper diplomatic protocol by addressing Congress with a misleading speech meant to attack the Iran deal, he should realize that a lot of progressives do not think highly of his performance.  Language in the platform can reflect that.

Fourth, modify the convention rules on super-delegates.  We still need them in case a candidate becomes incapacitated or does something completely off the wall after essentially sewing up the nomination or in the case of a really close election (51%-49% of popular votes, for example), but they should not dictate the coverage early in a campaign or be able to swing support from a candidate who has a substantial lead in the popular vote.  Sanders is not in that situation, but he has a point on the rules.

Fifth, if Sanders wants to run through the DC primary next week, it’s not a big deal – don’t criticize him.

Finally, if Sanders is not the VP nominee (does he want it?), maybe he wants a particular committee chairmanship or bill to get a vote in the Senate.  He’s earned it and should get it if the Democrats win back the Senate.

A Time to Unify

Unification has a cost, but the price of disunity is a Trump presidency.  And the possibility of progress on everything we care about hangs in the balance.  The time has come.



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A Trio with Neither Conviction nor Courage

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After six and seven year-old children and the adults in charge of teaching and caring for them were killed in Sandy Hook, Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte lacked the courage to take on the NRA to pass a basic background check bill, which over 90% of the public and over 70% of gun owners supported.  Now she lacks the courage to face the voters on this point, running an ad claiming that she supported background checks.  Cold, calculating and cowardly.

Next there’s Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.  Ryan admitted Trump’s attack on an American judge from Indiana (who is apparently of Hispanic descent) was racist.  Yet he continues to stand by his endorsement of Trump, despite disagreements with him over trade, the Muslim ban and his tone.  Fearing the radicalized Republicans, Ryan becomes one.  Unwilling to stand up to racism and declare that those espousing racist views disqualify themselves from high office, Ryan sets back his party and the country.  How someone of his generation can fail to stand up for basic racial equality is a profile in political cowardice.

His counterpart in the Senate, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did him one worse.  McConnell can’t even admit that the attack on the judge was racist in the first place.  He was asked repeatedly this past Sunday, but could not summon the courage to even utter the words for fear of a backlash from the bigots he should be confronting.

It’s now official.  The entire top tier of leadership in the Republican Party is composed of those who are either outright racists (Trump, Sen Sessions) or people of such weak constitution that they cannot stand up to the bigotry that’s right in front of them.  They are leaders by title, but lack the convictions that underlie the courage inherent in good leadership. This is no longer “The Party of Lincoln.”

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Free Speech as a One-Way Street

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To the right of this post, you can see the tweet & link to Charles Blow’s New York Times column for today.  Blow makes the point that, although we have libel and slander laws on the books, Trump wants to loosen them up to use lawsuits as a cudgel to suppress  unflattering press about him.  Pretty rich for a less-rich-than-most-think guy who spends his time slandering Hispanic people, African Americans, women, Muslims, Jews, and the disabled.

When Trump attacks these groups, he suppresses criticism with a “political correctness” defense.  But when Trump doesn’t like non-fawning press reports of his bigotry, fraud schemes, ignorance or the fact that he only contributed what he said he would to veterans groups four months after making the pledge (and only then after probing questions by The Washington Post), it’s a different story.  Minorities and women don’t get to sue him, but he gets to put The Post out of business (or at least damage them financially) not because they knowingly or negligently got something wrong and did him damage (he can already to that), but because he’s not pleased with coverage inconsistent with his inflated vision of himself.

To be clear, no one is using the government to force Trump to tow a particular rhetorical line or keep a certain level of decorum he is clearly incapable of keeping.  But he’d use the government enforcement power of the court system to suppress criticism – and that’s the point at which The First Amendment becomes endangered.

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What Message are Trump Supporters Sending to Young Women & Girls?

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Question for those Trump supporters with daughters, granddaughters or nieces:

Do you want her to grow up in a world where if she asks a man a tough question, it’s socially acceptable for him to dismiss it by suggesting she’s hormonal?

Do you want her to grow up in a culture where if her husband or significant other cheats on her, it’s culturally accepted that it’s her fault and not his?

Do you want her to grow up in a world where people accept the idea that a guy can attack her professional qualifications based upon her appearance compared to other women he finds more attractive?

Some will respond with something about Bill Clinton’s infidelity or make other wild allegations against him or that, as Trump says, Hillary Clinton didn’t “treat” Bill’s mistresses well. But Bill isn’t the candidate, Hillary is.  He would not be president.  Are we to hold women responsible for their husband’s personal failings when we’ve never applied the same standard to male candidates? There is no evidence that Secretary Clinton “treated the women badly” as Trump says, but what if there were?  Are women to be “nice” to their husband’s mistresses while no husband  has ever been held to that standard regarding an unfaithful wife?  And anyone attacking the Democratic candidate’s spouse for his infidelity might want to consider the rape allegation the Republican candidate’s ex-wife made against Trump.

In contrast to Trump, Hillary Clinton has spent her professional life fighting and speaking out for women’s equality around the world.  And since Trump seems intent on making Bill part of the discussion despite the fact that Hillary is the one on the ballot, it should be said that neither Clinton has ever used sexism as a political, professional or personal weapon.  Trump has done so repeatedly and publicly.  His election would leave our daughters, granddaughters and nieces with some discouraging answers to some tough questions – assuming they’re allowed to ask them.


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