Pat Buchanan - A lot of smoke here, Hillary

Prediction: If Hillary Clinton wins, within a year of her inauguration, she will be under investigation by a special prosecutor on charges of political corruption, thereby continuing a family tradition. For consider what the Associated Press reported this week:

The surest way for a person with private interests to get a meeting with Secretary of State Clinton, or a phone call returned by her, it seems, was to dump a bundle of cash into the Clinton Foundation. Of 154 outsiders whom Clinton phoned or met with in her first two years at State, 85 had made contributions to the Clinton Foundation, and their contributions, taken together, totaled $156 million.

Conclusion: Access to Secretary of State Clinton could be bought, but it was not cheap. Forty of the 85 donors gave $100,000 or more. Twenty of those whom Clinton met with or phoned dumped in $1 million or more. To get to the seventh floor of the Clinton State Department for a hearing for one's plea, the cover charge was high.

Among those who got face time with Hillary Clinton were a Ukrainian oligarch and steel magnate who shipped oil pipe to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions and a Bangladeshi economist who was under investigation by his government and was eventually pressured to leave his own bank.

The stench is familiar, and all too Clintonian in character.

Recall. On his last day in office, Jan. 20, 2001, Bill Clinton issued a presidential pardon to financier-crook and fugitive from justice Marc Rich, whose wife, Denise, had contributed $450,000 to the Clinton Library.

The Clintons appear belatedly to have recognized their political peril. Bill has promised that, if Hillary is elected, he will end his big dog days at the foundation and stop taking checks from foreign regimes and entities, and corporate donors. Cash contributions from wealthy Americans will still be gratefully accepted.

One wonders: Will Bill be writing thank-you notes for the millions that will roll in to the family foundation — on White House stationery?

By his actions, Bill is all but conceding that there is a serious conflict of interest between his foundation raking in millions that enhance the family's prestige and sustain its travel and lifestyle, while providing its big donors with privileged access to the secretary of state.

Yet if Hillary Clinton becomes president, the scheme is unsustainable. Even the Obama-Clinton media might not be able to stomach this.

And even Clinton seems to be conceding the game is up. "I know there's a lot of smoke, and there's no fire," she said in self-defense this week.

She is certainly right about the smoke. And if, as Democratic apparatchik Steve McMahon assures us that there is "no smoking gun," no quid-pro-quo, no open-and-shut case of Secretary Clinton taking official action in gratitude to a donor of the family foundation, how can we predict a special prosecutor?

Answer: We are not at the end of this scandal. We are at what Churchill called the "end of the beginning."

Missing emails are being unearthed at State, through Freedom of Information Act requests, that are filling out the picture Clinton thought had been blotted out when her 33,000 "private" emails were erased by her lawyers.

Someone out there, Julian Assange, Russia, or the rogue websites doing all this hacking, are believed to have many more explosive emails they are preparing to drop before Election Day.

And why is Clinton is keeping her State Department calendar secret from the AP, if it does not contain meetings or calls she does not want to defend? She has defied requests and the AP had to sue to get the schedule of her first two years at State. Moreover, the AP story on the State Department-Clinton Foundation links was so stunning it is sure to trigger follow-up by investigative journalists who can smell a Pulitzer.

Then there are the contacts between Huma Abedin, her closest aide at State, and Doug Band at the Clinton Foundation, the go-betweens for the donor-Clinton meetings, which has opened a new avenue for investigators.

These were unearthed by Judicial Watch, which is not going away.

The number of persons of interest involved in this suppurating scandal, which has gone from an illicit server, to a panoply of Clinton lies to the public that disgusted the FBI director, to erased emails, to "pay for play," and now deep into the Clinton Foundation continues to grow.

All that is needed now, to bring us to an independent counsel, is calls for the FBI to reopen and broaden its investigation in light of all that has been revealed since Director Comey said there was not evidence enough to recommend an indictment.

If Clinton controls the Justice Department, calls for a special prosecutor will be resisted, but only until public demand becomes too great. For there were independent counsels called in Watergate, Iran-Contra and the scandals that led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton says there is no fire. But something is causing all that smoke.

(Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book "The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.")

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Susan Estrich - Trump flunks August

It took a long time, but every record must eventually get broken, and no one is happier about this one than me: Finally, a presidential campaign has had a worse August than we did in 1988. That year, Michael Dukakis came out of the convention with a lead a mile wide and an inch deep, only to turn his campaign plane around and head back to Massachusetts, where he spent August being governor while his lead disappeared.

When I heard the chairman of the Republican National Committee say that Donald Trump would have been better off going on vacation after the convention, I realized the mark had been passed.

Donald Trump has had the worst August of any modern nominee, God bless him.

And that was before he fired well-respected Republican political consultant Paul Manafort, who has run all manner of campaigns, and replaced him with the executive chairman of Breitbart, the right-wing scream sheet.

Who needs a guy who knows how to run campaigns when you have a guy who really knows how to write headlines?

Instead of stopping me in the market to ask me if Trump could win (thankfully, that line of questioning has ended), people ask me how it was that someone so clearly and completely unsuited to the office could have gotten so close — obit time in August.

And you won't convince me it's too early, that it's just spring training, not when you are talking about a candidate who may be a household name but no one actually knows all that much about. What voters are learning in August will shape how they view Trump on the ballot.

This is a man who picks a fight with the family of a Muslim soldier, and then just can't bring himself to apologize. I'm willing to bet money that was not Manafort's idea.

This is a man who refuses to endorse the Republican House speaker — definitely not Manafort's strategy.

How about inviting Vladimir Putin to hack into State Department files? Manafort? No.

There have been many smart people trying to guide Trump the nominee in the hopes of at least salvaging some victories down-ticket. There is no shortage of people who would tell him that it is a bad idea to pick a fight with the family of a dead Muslim soldier. This part of politics is not rocket science.

That Trump did so proves the most troubling thing of all about a man who got so close: He listens to no one. He thinks he knows better than anyone. He thinks in headlines, so he's hired a headline writer to write his campaign. Leadership as Twitter. The heck with those Washington insiders, of all stripes, who mostly keep the country going, even if it is too often to the highest bidder. At least they understand that governing is not a reality show, and that what a nominee for president says does matter.

Fortunately, what had to happen to Trump is finally happening — too late to save the Republican Party, but with time to spare for the general election. Has Trump sunk too soon? I don't think so. The kind of harm he has inflicted on himself this month is not going to be cured by a smart line at a debate.

What Trump needed to do this summer was convince people he really could be president, that he belonged in that small group of people who Americans can imagine in the White House. What he did was just the opposite. Even white men are turning on him. Imagine: Hillary Clinton closing the voting gender gap. Only the Donald could make that happen.

(Massachusetts native Susan Estrich is a law professor at the University of Southern California. She managed the Michael Dukakis campaign for president in 1988.)

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Michael Barone - Identifying the real victim

Victims aren't always virtuous. That's a sad lesson that people learn from life. Human beings have a benign instinct to help those who are hurt through no cause of their own. But those they help don't always turn out to be very grateful.

And sometimes it's hard to be sure just who the victim is. The most heavily publicized and violence-prompting police killings of young black men — in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, and Milwaukee this month — appeared to be, as the facts became known, justifiable responses to felons' assaults.

Such incidents are, unhappily, frequent, because young black men, again unhappily, commit a wildly disproportionate number of violent crimes. The real victims of this are, again unhappily and disproportionately, law-abiding black people.

That was pointed out last week in one of three well-crafted and teleprompter-delivered speeches by, of all people, Donald Trump. (Hillary Clinton's campaign made snarky remarks about Trump's using a teleprompter, as Republicans have often made snarky remarks about Barack Obama's.) Trump's delivery of three carefully prepared and thoughtful speeches the same week he named the crass provocateur Steve Bannon head honcho to his campaign looks like one of the prime ironies of campaign 2016.

"Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, the violent disruptor," Trump said Tuesday in Wisconsin. "Our job is to make life more comfortable for the African-American parent who wants their kids to be able to safely walk the streets. Or the senior citizen waiting for a bus. Or the young child walking home from school.

"For every one violent protester, there are a hundred moms and dads and kids on that same city block who just want to be able to sleep safely at night. My opponent would rather protect the offender than the victim."

This identification of the victim is spot on. Trump and Clinton and I are old enough to remember the urban riots of the 1960s and what followed. As an intern in the mayor's office in Detroit, I witnessed the 1967 riot from city hall and police headquarters and on the streets.

I know much of Detroit block by block, and I know what happened there afterward. I know that the most victimized group was black Detroiters who worked hard and paid off their mortgages for 30 years and who, because of the riot and high crime, ended up with $10,000 of equity in a house worth 10 times that in a low-crime working-class suburb.

It's even harder to accurately identify victims who are farther away. In September 2015, when much of the world was moved by the picture of the body of a 3-year-old Syrian refugee drowned on a Turkish beach, German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised to welcome 800,000 refugees. That's 1 percent of Germany's population; the equivalent here would be 3.2 million.

It's not hard to understand what moved Merkel. She grew up in East Germany, behind the infamous wall, and like other German leaders and the German people feels an obligation to atone for the horrors of the Nazis.

Now, a year later, more than 1 million "refugees" have entered Germany, about three-quarters of them young men, most not from Syria but Muslims from places like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Libya and Eritrea.

Thousands have assaulted young women in organized attacks hushed up by the government and the press. Several have launched terrorist attacks, shooting people in shopping centers, setting off bombs or swinging an ax at railroad passengers. Few appear eager to take education classes in Western mores or to accept jobs being offered by Germans who were hoping the newcomers would supply the skilled labor that population-losing Germany needs.

In our presidential campaign Donald Trump has been criticizing Obama for promising to accept just 10,000 Syrian refugees and has charged that Clinton would welcome 620,000 more, without noting that that's far less, proportionately, than Merkel's Germany has taken in.

Whatever the number, Trump's stronger point is that in any large influx many terrorists will come in, as in Germany. He has called for "extreme vetting" of any such refugees, without specifying exactly how that could be done.

The problem is that many people we see as victims aren't, and many who are victims aren't virtuous, in the sense of being willing to assimilate to American toleration and diversity. Our natural sympathy should prompt us to find ways to help. But that need not mean inviting them here.

(Michael Barone is senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)

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Froma Harrop - French ban of burkinis is none of our business

A few years ago, I took a French friend to a crowded beach in Rhode Island. No sooner had we hit the soft sands than she ripped off the top of her two-piece, baring her breasts to the sun and to curious boys playing nearby.

"You can't do that," I said. "This is New England. People don't go topless here."

Not entirely true. There are secluded beaches where New Englanders strip to nothing, but I kept it simple.

She gave me her you-Americans-are-so-backward smirk. I chose not to respond, regarding the region's penchant for modesty as rather nice.

Which leads to the burkini ban in France. The burkini is a bathing suit favored by many Muslim women. It covers the entire body except for the hands, feet and face. Devout Muslims believe that women's bodies must be largely hidden from public view.

The issue in France is political, not fashion aesthetics. Many worry that their large Muslim population is not assimilating into the predominant culture. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called the burkini an emblem of "a counter-society" based on "the enslavement of women."

Others in the West may see the body-covering bathing suit as merely eccentric. In the resort town of Blackpool, England, burkinis are sold and rented.

I could turn the tables on my friend and ask, "Why are you French so darned scared of a bathing suit?" But I won't. Just as American beaches may stop women from going topless — and Iran can demand that women cover their hair — France can say non to the burkini as an offensive demonstration of apartness.

Note France's long-held aversion to displays of religious affiliation. In 2004, it banished Muslim headscarfs from public schools and also visible crosses, turbans and Jewish kippas.

Arguing, as one Muslim woman did to BBC News, that banning burkinis "just hands ammunition" to Islamic radicals is not going to work. This is an implied threat — that if French officials don't submit to their demands, violence could follow.

The French don't take such threats lightly. They remain traumatized by a string of terrorist attacks. Only last month, a Muslim extremist drove a 19-ton cargo truck through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the seaside city of Nice, killing 86.

If it were up to me, the French would allow more latitude in distinctive dress. But I do shudder at the sight of a burqa in Western settings. A burqa covers a woman's entire identity in a sheet, with only a cutout or mesh for the eyes.

In Manhattan, I recently saw a young man in jeans, summer shirt hanging out, walking with a woman entirely encased in a burqa. Scarves and other religion-based headgear are one thing, but the burqa, with its proclamation of female inferiority, is simply jarring.

In the opposite direction — but on a less intense level — it irks me to walk into a surf shop and see racks of roomy long shorts for the boys and tiny bikinis for the girls. At swimming areas, you see the male teens romping comfy and covered while their female companions go highly exposed and often self-conscious in their narrow strips of cloth.

In the end, it should not matter whether I or other non-French people approve of the burkini. If the French want to ban it, that's their business. And regulating acceptable body exposure on their family beaches is Americans' business.

Local authorities may set their own rules on dress in accordance with local sensibilities. One doesn't have to like them — and minds can be changed — but that's their right.

(Syndicated columnist Froma Harrop is based qt the Providence Journal.)

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E. Scott Cracraft - Back to school

This month, students will be returning to college or will be attending for the first time. They will worry about papers, exams, and of course, their social lives. But, students and their parents will also be thinking about the rising cost of higher education and how they are going to pay for it. The students, especially, will be worried that they graduate and get a job good enough to pay off student loans for the next decade or two. If they cannot, student loans cannot be discharged under federal bankruptcy laws.
At least a few students and their families will be asking "why?" Some may even ask why Germany and many other democracies are able to afford free higher education and why the world's remaining superpower cannot. In some countries, like Denmark, besides free tuition, students even get a monthly stipend for living expenses. One of the reasons that European students often know much more about their world than our students is that they often have summers to travel because they are not working to pay tuition.
Of course, we cannot expect that here from conservatives but even many liberals lack the vision that we can do this in the U.S.A. Until very recently and due in large part to the influence of Bernie Sanders, even Democrats did not take the idea seriously.
Unfortunately, N.H. has the highest student debt and the highest tuition rates for any public institutions. Why? Because conservative interests and politicians in Concord refuse to adequately fund it. In the average state, the state legislatures provide around 50-55 percent of the cost of a community college student's education. In N.H. it is around 25-27 percent. N.H. is among the worst but it is happening everywhere and the cost of tuition is more and more being laid on students and their families.
In the 1960s and 70s, students could finance an education at a public college or university with some savings from high school, a college and/or summer job, and perhaps a bit of help from family. In fact, in some states like California, community colleges (often called "junior" colleges in those days) were tuition-free or almost so.
This author's spouse completed her first two years of college in the mid-70s at such a California junior college. She only paid for textbooks and perhaps some incidental fees. She paid no tuition.
Of course, many, both Republicans and Democrats, are going to whine "but how are you going to pay for it?" Is it possible we can really can pay for it but simply do not have our national priorities straight?
Could we perhaps afford it if the wealthy and corporations paid their fair share of taxes? Or, perhaps we would have the money if we were not paying billions for military equipment that does not work and paying gouging defense contractors? Why don't more Americans question how much was spent on Bush's illegal war? Or, why aren't we more concerned about the amount of tax money going to build more and more prisons when it is actually cheaper in most cases to send someone to college than to lock them up?
National security and public safety are, of course, important priorities. But how can the nation really be safe and secure without an educated population? At the present cost of higher education, the arts, humanities and social sciences — all those things that make us better educated people — are being downplayed. There are both intrinsic and extrinsic values of an education.
Students themselves and their parents need to start asking "why" and doing something about it. We need to let our elected officials at the Federal, state, and local level that education is an investment, not a burden.
For those who find "free stuff" anathema, perhaps we could ask students for something in return to benefit our society. Perhaps we could even tie a free or very-low cost higher education system to some sort of national service, military or civilian where students could help "earn" these benefits.
(Scott Cracraft is a citizen, a taxpayer, a veteran, and a resident of Gilford.)

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