Washington and the think tank community were focused on Philadelphia and the Democratic National Convention.
The Monitor analysis looks at what happened at the convention, how the voters viewed it and Clinton’s pick of Senator Kaine for her VP choice. We also look at the email controversy and if the Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC computers.
Think Tanks Activity Summary
The CSIS looks at regional security and relations with the US in light of the Turkish coup. They note, “From 2011 to 2015, Turkey was the third-largest purchaser of U.S. arms, behind Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), accounting for 6.6 percent of total U.S. arms exports globally. U.S. arms sales represent 63 percent of Turkish arms purchases. Because the coup attempt failed, the U.S. statutory requirement to cease all assistance to militaries involved in coups will not impact arms sales already in the pipeline to Turkey, including Chinook helicopters valued at $1.2 billion, Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) worth $70 million, and several other weapon systems. Notably, Turkey plans to purchase approximately 100 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters worth approximately $16 billion. President Erdogan’s postcoup crackdown runs the risk of reducing congressional willingness to approve arms sales packages in the future. Several key members were unhappy with Erdogan even before recent incidents. In 2014, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain called Erdogan a “real Islamist, and worse than that, a pretty oppressive dictator.” Congress’s resistance to arms exports to Turkey can only be expected to increase. This could make getting major sales packages through the Hill more challenging for the foreseeable future.”
The Carnegie Endowment also looks at the impact of the Turkish coup. They note, “The effectiveness of the joint fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), which relies heavily on air strikes originating from the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey, would doubtless be jeopardized. More broadly, a breach in this key bilateral relationship would weaken NATO cohesion in its policy toward Russia, with Turkey seeking to move beyond the confrontational framework set out at the Alliance’s recent Warsaw summit. The consequences of the failed coup are also likely to affect Turkey’s relationship with Europe. In March, Turkey and the European Union agreed on an ambitious package of measures designed to stem the flow of refugees to Europe. But, while the arrangement has been a clear success, it remains politically vulnerable. For Turkey, the biggest prize was the EU’s commitment to lifting visa restrictions on Turkish citizens traveling to the Schengen Area, a move scheduled for June. Instead, visa liberalization was postponed until October, owing to Turkey’s refusal to comply with a few remaining conditions.”
The Washington Institute says that increased tensions with the West may force Erdogan to move closer to Putin. They look at Turkey’s options and say, “If US courts reject his request for Gulen’s extradition, Erdogan will certainly blame the White House. Subsequently, the Turkish leader will have two options. First, he may link the extradition issue to anti-ISIS co-operation. If Turkey were to present the US with an ultimatum, this would backfire, and the US would move its anti-ISIS operations from Turkey to Mediterranean aircraft carriers and Persian Gulf bases. Alternatively, Erdogan could retaliate by simply pulling the plug on anti-ISIS co-operation with Washington. In both cases, US-Turkish ties will rupture. With regard to the EU, Erdogan will be even bolder. Should Turkey bring back capital punishment, Brussels is almost certain to suspend both accession talks and the visa deal with Turkey — Ankara’s promise to control the flow of refugees into the Union in return for Europe’s promise to allow visa-free travel for Turkish citizens inside the EU’s Schengen area. If Brussels took those steps, Erdogan would threaten to walk away from the EU.”
The Carnegie Endowment says the authoritarian regime in Egypt is preventing the necessary for economic reform. They note, “Egypt’s current economic crisis will have a significant impact on the military-backed regime of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in the coming years, and it puts the regime in a catch-22. The country’s economic and fiscal challenges deny its leadership the resources needed to maintain its base of support among public sector employees, but at the same time, the regime is reluctant to introduce reforms to address these constraints because they risk alienating that same key constituency. Attracting the domestic and foreign private investment needed to relaunch economic growth would require the regime to shrink the state bureaucracy and narrow the scope of its intervention, and to restructure its functions to limit corruption and extortion, reduce the costs of doing business, and improve the competence of market regulators.”
The Foreign Policy Research Institute looks at Republican foreign policy in the era of Trump. They note, “First, the US foreign policy system is ultimately president-centered. One need not view the White House as all-powerful to understand that for better or worse the beliefs, personality, and decision-making style of each individual president really do make a tremendous difference. Our last two US presidents are excellent examples of this. Congress, of course, has a very important role to play, as do leading cabinet officials, interest groups, bureaucratic actors, a free press, and the general public as a whole. The combined pressures on any chief executive can certainly be intense. In the end however, it is the president who decides exactly how to weigh up all of these pressures, and who literally makes the most important foreign policy decisions. Trump has made it abundantly clear that he will be the final arbiter of his own foreign policy advisory process. In this, he will be no different from previous presidents. So it would be worth taking seriously his declared policy preferences and decision-making style.”
The Cato Institute says the US needs to rethink its global role. In rejecting the bipartisan nature previous national policy, they note, “U.S. influence in the world remains preeminent, but with a rising China, a reassertive Russia, and emerging regional rivalries, it is no longer unchallenged. America’s foreign policy cannot simply rely on the business-as-usual policies that have sustained us in recent years. Instead, the country must look to alternative approaches to foreign policy, many of which are better suited to dealing with the complexities of the 21st century. The United States is the richest, most secure, and most powerful country in the world; therefore, the range of possible choices available to American policymakers is extremely broad. That doesn’t mean, however, that we can avoid choosing, nor that those choices will be easy. America’s foreign policy decisions have an impact on our security, today and in the future, as well as on other nations. In the long term, the lack of debate on foreign policy, by precluding serious consideration of our options, will damage American interests. It will blind us to the changes taking place in the world today and will prevent us from capitalizing on new opportunities to advance U.S. security and prosperity.”
Democratic Convention Unified with difficulties
he conventional wisdom was that the Democratic convention was going to be unified, while the Republican convention was going to show fatal divisions. And, like the conventional wisdom that said Trump would never win the nomination, it was wrong.
While GOP divisions were visible from the first hour of the first day, when the rules for the convention were being debated and voted on, the democratic divisions were also evident throughout the convention, with Sanders delegates booing Hilary Clinton and even Sanders, when he expressed support for Clinton. But Democrats were able to project successful diverse and strong leaders among the party and hopeful message for the future far better than republicans.
Obviously democratic divisions were revealed when leaked emails showed that the DNC had clearly supported Clinton over Sanders in the primaries. This revelation was so damaging that the DNC chair, Debbie Wasserman, Shultz, was forced to announce her resignation before the convention even began.
While every convention has its problems – as evidenced last week at the Republican convention, the Democratic convention had its own set of problems. They included an ill-timed release of DNC emails, the continued divisions between the Clinton and Sanders factions of the party.
Clinton Pick Senator Tim Kaine
Clinton’s pick of Tim Kaine, senator from Virginia, was a pick of a confident candidate, who feels that she is in control of the election. Rather than going for a candidate that would appeal to a demographic (like a Hispanic), she picked a senator from the Democratic mainstream.
Kaine has represented Virginia in the United States Senate since 2013 and was the state’s governor from 2006 to 2010. He previously served as the mayor of Richmond. He brings both legislative and executive strength to the ticket. And, as a white male, Clinton hopes to close the ground she has lost to Trump in this critical demographic.
There are also other positives. Since he is fluent in Spanish, Kaine could help connect with Hispanic voters. Virginia is also a swing state, and his influence could be helpful there in a close election.
But he has not thrilled the Democratic grassroots. As a moderate, Kaine does not satisfy the Democratic Party’s activist base. His support for trade deals could provide an opening for Trump to attack. He has also not seen as a friend of gun ownership, which will hurt in several battleground states in the Midwest.
Unfortunately for the Clinton, the announcement came last Friday. Instead of being the headline of the day, it had to compete with the DNC email scandal and the terrorist attack in Munich Germany.
How a convention appears to the TV viewers means a lot. Usually, the push is to make the party seem as mainstream as possible, while displaying unity. In this the Democratic convention did a good enough job but not at the level expected by Clinton campaign.
Although Sanders had endorsed Clinton, many of his supporters hadn’t. Sanders delegates, who made up over one third of the convention, booed pro-Clinton speakers lustily and help up pro-Sanders signs that were quickly confiscated by Democratic officials.
The hostile anti-Sanders attitude also hurt as Sanders delegates stopped attending the event, leading to an embarrassing number of empty seats on the convention floor.
The feelings of the Sanders supporters weren’t helped by the release of the hacked emails that showed that the DNC had actively supported Clinton, although they were to remain neutral. Although these delegates aren’t likely to support Trump, they are more likely to stay at home on Election Day or vote for the Green Party candidate.
The Sanders situation lead to another optics problem – there were reports that many of the Sanders delegates had either left town in disgust or had their credentials revoked for holding up Sanders or anti-TPP signs at the convention. Bernie Sanders delegates staged a walk-out, leaving nearly half of the Democratic National Convention empty just before Bill Clinton’s speech. The result was many empty seats on Wednesday night and a scramble by the DNC to find people to fill the delegate seats for Hillary’s acceptance speech.
Another optics problem was advanced by Trump camp and pushed by Fox News channel was the DNC’s avoidance of the terrorism issue and safety. While Trump has made it a key issue for his campaign, the Clinton campaign was accused of trying to ignore it. To those critics ISIS hasn’t cooperated and during the lead up to the convention and the convention itself, several attacks were made in Europe that gave American voters a chance to question who was better able to protect them.
The Democratic Convention also was longer and more turgid than the Republican event. Since many major GOP politicians refused to speak at the GOP convention, the GOP convention only lasted 3.5 hours each night. Speakers were separated by music and included many celebrities from outside politics. The result was a faster moving event.
The Democratic convention lasted twice as long every night and had nearly three times as many speakers – many who were obscure politicians. The Democrats have drawn larger audiences than the Republicans on each night of their convention so far, despite GOP nominee Donald Trump’s ability to draw strong TV ratings throughout the campaign season.
CNN continued to be the top-rated network for Democratic convention coverage with 6.17 million viewers from 10 p.m. to 11:45 p.m. ET, the third night in a row the cable news network has led the competition.
MSNBC was second with 4.92 million viewers, followed by NBC (4.15 million), ABC (3.54 million), CBS (2.85 million), and Fox News (2.39 million).
Those speakers who weren’t politicians came from groups that are politically controversial in a general election. There were anti-gun groups, open border advocates, and the controversial Planned Parenthood, that is America’s largest provider of abortions. While these groups might appeal to progressive Democrats, they are politically questionable in terms of attracting independents to Clinton. They will also work against Clinton in the critical battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.
Finally, there were the demonstrators outside. While demonstrations in Cleveland at the GOP convention frequently had more policemen than demonstrators, the Philadelphia demonstrations – fueled by upset Sanders supporters – were larger and more emotionally charged. There were also hundreds arrested – more than in Cleveland. That hardly gave the “unified” appearance that the Democrats had tried to project.
Although it’s early to tell for sure, one poll taken during the convention and released Thursday showed Trump closing the gap with Clinton to one-point difference (Rasmussen Clinton 43 to Trump 42). But we expect Clinton to get a boost in polls after DNC convention.
The Email Scandal
If anything disrupted the convention narrative, it was the release of 20,000 DNC emails that showed the DNC had actively supported Clinton in the primaries. There were other embarrassing emails that indicated that the DNC was engaged in questionable financial practices, anti-Hispanic comments, and seeking donations in return for administration positions. Other embarrassing emails are certain to come out in the future.
The first casualty of the email release was Debbie Wasserman Shultz, who announced she would resign as DNC head. She was also “quarantined” from the convention and prevented from gaveling the convention to order or even speaking.
The depth of the problem came out when Shultz spoke to her own Florida delegation and was constantly interrupted by boos.
The DNC went into damage control mode and focused on the theory that the Russians had hacked the DNC email system. They maintained that this showed that Russia was trying to influence the US election and help the election of Trump – a charge that Russia denied.
Of course, there have been numerous attempts by US administration to influence elections elsewhere – including ones with Clinton and Obama fingerprints on it.
There is evidence that suggests the Kremlin or Russian hackers might indeed have had a role to play in the whole email incident. As The Hill writes, emails sent by Guccifer 2.0 to The Hill show evidence that the hacker used Russian-language anonymity software — a language he has claimed he could not read or even recognize. Guccifer 2.0 communicates with journalists using different disposable web-based email accounts each time. He communicated with The Hill using addresses from ProtonMail and Mail.com.
Vocativ reported Tuesday that ThreatConnect had discovered the hacker used a predominantly-Russian-language VPN when he corresponded with them through a French AOL account. ThreatConnect matched that same internet address from the same VPN to the Mail.com email.
Elite VPN’s website is written in Russian, with links to English translations. Parts of the site, including graphics, are only written in Russian, and when ThreatConnect went through the process of signing up for an account, they found the signup process written entirely in Russian.
Guccifer 2.0 has long claimed to be Romanian. In an online chat interview with Motherboard, Guccifer 2.0 claimed not to know how to speak Russian. In the same interview, when forced to answered questions in Romanian, he used such clunky grammar and terminology that experts believed he was using an online translator.
The two active payment services for Elite VPN are options that are popular in Russia, including the Moscow-based Web Money. The site also includes a link to a long-defunct Costa Rican payment processor that was seized by law enforcement in 2013.
However, there is evidence that it wasn’t Russian intelligence who hacked the site. Obviously Russian intelligence would want to keep any hack secret in able to continue to use it and even exploit it after Clinton was elected.
There could be some self serving here too. The Guardian notes, “The bulk of the “evidence” has come from the statements of cybersecurity firms FireEye and Crowdstrike, both of which have lucrative contracts with the US government. As FireEye’s CEO once made clear, his company has a financial stake in nation-state hacking tensions.”
“If the allegations involving Russia are true, there are plenty more logical motivations besides evil genius-level electioneering, and the media should probably stop feigning shock that a country would stoop to this level. As Edward Snowden pointed out on Twitter with an accompanying NSA document, “Our government specifically authorized the hacking of political parties.” The US has also considered hacking and then releasing sensitive and embarrassing information in China in retaliation for cybersecurity attacks, as the New York Times reported last year.”
Israeli Intelligence has also commented about some reasons to believe that it wasn’t the Russians. They note had any branch of Russian intelligence been responsible for the hacking the Democratic Party’s servers, no obvious signatures, such as the terms “Fancy Bear,” and “Cozy Bear” that were discovered, would have been left behind for investigators to find.
They also note Intelligence organizations, including those of Russia, are usually fully focused on seeking security, strategic and economic data. It is hard to see Russian military intelligence, whose resources are stretched, expending time and manpower on digging out the DNC’s views of Bernie Sanders’ Jewish faith.
While US intelligence agencies will continue to investigate this, we can expect to see more Email revelations that are damaging to Clinton in the next few months.
Speeches – Winners and Losers
Bill Clinton. A quarter of a century after becoming president, Bill Clinton has definitely lost his oratorical touch. In 2012, Clinton was at his best, using his speaking skills and frequent ad libs to make the case to reelect Obama. The result was that it was a highlight of the convention and helped defeat Romney.
This year was different. In an attempt to humanize Hillary, Bill focused on cute anecdotes in the first part of his speech.
From there, Clinton tried to paint his wife as “a change-maker.” “Look—this is a really important point,” he said. “If you believe in making change from the bottom up…actually doing the work is hard.” But Hillary is “a change-maker” who “makes people’s lives better.”
Clinton built on this point by talking about his wife’s social-justice crusading through law school and in Arkansas. The most impressive story he told was about how Hillary had worked with Tom DeLay on a bill to make it easier for people to adopt children out of foster care.
Bill also tried to defuse the charges which had been leveled against Hillary last week at the Republican convention. He said that they simply weren’t true, that they were fiction, that the opposition was turning Hillary into “a cartoon.” This might have been more persuasive had he tried to explain a single one of the charges against his wife—on Benghazi, on her flip-flopping on trade, on the mishandling of her private email server. If he could have contextualized even one of these problems in a way that would have sounded reasonable to independent voters, it would have been a big deal.
In the end, the speech was solid, but it reminded an old, star soccer player that is obviously not up to the challenge.
Michelle Obama. Eight years of making speeches across the globe was great training for her last major speech as First Lady. And, she used it to great effect to make her appearance on the second day the highlight of the day’s events.
Barak Obama. Although this was Obama’s valedictory speech and the symbolic “passing of the torch,” it seemed that he put forward the best rebuttal for Trump candidacy
And declared Hillary as the best qualified individual to be president, “better prepared than himself and Bill Clinton”.
Still Obama shows his skills as great speaker.
Hillary Clinton. Although not known as a great speaker, Thursday night’s acceptance speech was workmanlike, but not spectacular. Her main job was to reduce her unlikable quotient and come across as more likable. In that regard, her talk about programs was actually a diversion from the main job of the night.
Hillary Clinton is casting herself as a unifier for divided times and a tested, steady hand to lead in a volatile world. “We are clear-eyed about what our country is up against,” she said in her speech Thursday accepting the Democratic presidential nomination. “But we are not afraid. We will rise to the challenge, just as we always have.”
How the voters will react to it will become more evident in next week’s polls.
Our Foreign Policy Choices: Rethinking America’s Global Role
By Christopher A. Preble, Emma Ashford, and Travis Evans
July 18, 2016
The end of the Cold War ushered in a unipolar world, cementing U.S. dominance over a generally liberal international order. Yet where once it seemed that U.S. foreign policy would be simpler and easier to manage as a result, the events of the past 15 years — the 9/11 attacks, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Arab Spring, and Russia’s invasions of Georgia and Ukraine — strongly suggest otherwise. The world today is certainly safer for Americans than it was under the existential threat posed by the Soviet Union. But the world is undoubtedly more complex, as nonstate actors, shifting alliances, and diverse domestic political factors complicate U.S. foreign policy formation and implementation. A robust debate on America’s foreign policy choices is urgently needed. Instead, policymakers and political candidates generally embrace the status quo. Bipartisan support exists for extensive alliance commitments, frequent military intervention, and higher defense spending. Though this orthodoxy is unsurprising since many candidates receive advice from a limited number of sources, it is deeply concerning. Debates tend to focus on which specific actions the United States should take, only rarely asking whether the United States should be involved, militarily or otherwise, in various global crises.
Security in the Eastern Mediterranean after the Coup Attempt: Turkey’s Reckoning and Washington’s Worries
By Jeffrey Rathke and Lisa Sawyer Samp
Center for Strategic and International Studies
July 21, 2016
The July 15 coup attempt in Turkey has plunged Ankara into political chaos and further complicated for the United States and its partners an already intractable situation in the broader eastern Mediterranean. As leaders from the global counter-ISIL coalition meet Thursday in Washington to try to chart a clear way forward, the crisis in Turkey will be foremost on many of their minds. At stake is the direction of Turkey, a NATO ally and crucial partner in the world’s most volatile region. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fraught relationship with the Turkish military is under enormous strain as nearly one-third of all senior officers have either been detained or arrested. This will affect Ankara’s ability to defend itself, as well as to contribute to shared security goals with Washington. Erdogan has cast his dragnet beyond those military officers implicated in the plot, detaining thousands of judges and suspending tens of thousands of education officials on suspicion that they may sympathize with exiled Erdogan opponent Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of inspiring the coup attempt.
The Strategic Consequences of Turkey’s Failed Coup
By Sinan Ülgen
July 18, 2016
A military coup against an elected government typically unleashes a flood of analysis about the country’s future direction following the break in democratic rule. But failed coups can be just as consequential. The botched attempt by elements of the Turkish military to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will have far-ranging implications for Turkey’s foreign relations and regional role. Turkey’s relationship with the United States, in particular, is headed for considerable turbulence. The coup attempt heralds a new and uneasy phase in the Turkey-US relationship, because Turkish authorities have linked it to Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic preacher based near Philadelphia since 1999 but with a core group of followers in Turkey.
Egypt’s Regime Faces an Authoritarian Catch-22
By Amr Adly
July 21, 2016
The regime of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The country’s current economic crisis deprives the regime of the financial and economic resources needed to sustain a solid social base among public sector employees, and hence hinders the consolidation of authoritarian rule. But at the same time, the regime’s reliance on this group gives it little latitude to pursue economic reform. The regime may survive, but at the high price of continued repression and an inability to alleviate worsening socioeconomic conditions.
Republican Party Foreign Policy: 2016 and Beyond
By Colin Dueck
Foreign Policy Research Institute
Republican voters today are divided between three broad tendencies: internationalist, nationalist, and non-interventionist. Donald Trump won the GOP presidential primaries this year partly by playing upon these divisions in an unconventional way. He assembled a new, ideologically cross-cutting insurgent coalition based upon strong support from non-college educated Republicans, directed against free trade, immigration, and policy elites from both parties. In effect, he pulled together nationalist and non-interventionist support against conservative internationalists, using his own polarizing personality as the focus. Since Trump is the GOP’s nominee, these nationalist and non-interventionist tendencies now have greater sway within the party than at any moment since the 1930s. Yet in many ways, the foreign policy preferences of the average Republican voter are no different – and no more “isolationist” – than they were four or five years ago. This raises the interesting possibility that the long-term future of conservative internationalists may not be as dire as many seem to believe. But of course, if Trump becomes president, then his declared policy preferences and decision-making style will carry even more weight than they do today. Paradoxically, the future of a viable Republican foreign policy approach rests on Trump’s defeat.
If Tensions Increase with the West, Erdogan Might Find a Friend in Putin
By Soner Cagaptay
July 23, 2016
The recent failed coup attempt in Turkey has not only thrown the country into chaos, but could derail the very fundamentals of the country’s foreign policy relations with the US and Europe. In its aftermath, there could be grave consequences for European-US co-operation with Ankara to combat the Islamic State in Syria; more generally, Turkish-European Union ties, including the efforts to work together to stem the flow of Syrian refugees, are now threatened. The mood in the country is nervous, angry and dark. Although the coup plot was extinguished within a day last Saturday, an eerie feeling still lingers over Ankara, the capital, which saw the most violence. Fearing for his safety, Erdogan did not return to Ankara until last Wednesday. The bombing of the city, including the targeting of parliament, has deeply shocked the residents of the city, which has not experienced a military attack in more than 600 years.