Political Choices and Imperfect Information

We’re deep into presidential primary season, and Americans are taking our imperfect knowledge of the candidates to the polls.

Given the sheer amount of ink–digital or real–devoted to American presidential candidates, you’d think voters would have ample, detailed information about those competing for our votes and contributions. But it doesn’t seem to work that way. Verifiable information is “supplemented” with rumor (scurrilous or fawning, depending upon the source and its motivation), and what we do read or hear is filtered through a partisan lens.

Unless we actually know a candidate–or know someone who does–we have only imperfect impressions on which to make judgments about character and intellect. That’s one reason why, in a more perfect world, voters would pay more attention to a candidate’s positions and less to the hype. Marco Rubio’s desire to outlaw all abortions–even in cases of rape and incest–tells you more about his character than softball interviews or even hardball debates.

I remember when George W. Bush was first running for President. He came across as more personable than Al Gore, and the meme was that here was a guy you’d enjoy having a beer with. At the time, I was working with an IUPUI professor whose (very Republican) doctor husband had practiced many years in Midland, Texas. When a dinner party conversation turned to the campaign, he mentioned that he’d gone jogging three or four times a week with George W. and a couple of others for several of those years.

“Really!” I said. “What’s he like?”

The doctor thought for a couple of minutes, then said “Dumb and mean.”

I don’t offer this as irrefutable evidence of George W’s intellect or temperament; I have no idea what their relationship might have been, or how accurate the doctor’s assessment. But it is evidence that widely shared impressions of public figures do not necessarily saccord with assessments by people who actually know and work with those figures.

I thought about that conversation when I read this description of Hillary Clinton at the Political Animal.

As President Obama’s former speechwriter (including during the 2008 primary), Jon Favreau admits that he was not always a fan of Hillary Clinton. He writes about how his view changed while he worked with her in the White House.

“The most famous woman in the world would walk through the White House with no entourage, casually chatting up junior staffers along the way. She was by far the most prepared, impressive person at every Cabinet meeting. She worked harder and logged more miles than anyone in the administration, including the president. And she’d spend large amounts of time and energy on things that offered no discernible benefit to her political future—saving elephants from ivory poachers, listening to the plight of female coffee farmers in Timor-Leste, defending LGBT rights in places like Uganda.”

Given the sustained assault on her character over the years, many of us have had a less-than-enthusiastic response to Hillary’s candidacy. She is clearly the most knowledgable and experienced, but she has also been the most tarnished–sometimes fairly, often not. People I’ve met who actually know her tend to share Favreau’s impressions.

Who’s right, who’s wrong? Who knows?

At least she isn’t arguing about who has the biggest penis.


  1. As it happens I once worked with someone who has been a friend of Hillary literally since Kindergarten. The woman I worked with was bright, loyal and fundamentally kind. She remains close to Hillary – in fact, Hillary remains friendly with a group of childhood friends. That in itself says a lot. The fact the they still speak highly of her says more.

  2. People who are somewhat informed understand that Hillary Clinton is bright and works very very hard. But where we split off is the willingness on the part of some of us to believe our eyes: the mess in which we find ourselves did not happen because of Republicans. It happened in a corrupted political 2-party system where the only people accountable under the law are debtors and drug users or walking while black.

    There are some good Democrats… not many, but some. There are no good Republicans as far as I can tell.

    Anyway: Hillary Clinton is a defender and believer in the system that is killing this world. It’s just that simple. I don’t care how smart she is…. she believes the way to solve our problems is using the very system creating them. She will NOT block the TPP and she will not stop fracking. She will not stand in the way of privatization of our public schools and her health care plan will be the same as Obama’s: access to insurance (really the only metric is enrollment). I never hear about the success of access to care without heavy costs and more debt. That’s not health care.

    Lastly, the tell is this: it is about what SHE will do. We need a leader who understands the system is corrupted and comes to us, asks us to step up in what is a worldwide necessity: treating each other better, no more war, and figuring out day-to-day how to pull back our poisoning this planet. There is a candidate who gets it. Hillary is not it.

  3. I have a friend from my career who worked with Hillary on the original healthcare reform task force during the early Clinton administration. She told me that Hillary wad the smartest person she’d ever met. Coming from my friend who is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, this was a great compliment to Clinton.

  4. My lifelong mentor Bernard Rapoport and his wife Audre have known Hillary since her campaign with Bill for McGovern in 1972. Bernard is now long past but in November Audre (now well in her 90’s) sent me ‘Killing the Messenger the Right Wing Plot to Derail Hillary and Hijack Your Government.’ With this note: Bernard and I admired Hillary from the start (1972) and I loved David Brock’s new book about her candidacy. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did. Audre is the best judge of character I have ever met, the one individual that kept Bernard on focus. Her deep friendship with Hillary over the years is proof to me of Hillary’s character for me.

  5. I have followed reports pro and con about Hillary for years; the most recent cons (those pesky E-mails and blame for Benghazi deaths) have repeatedly been debunked by authorities, I agree with and support the debunking. I also remember reading that the Clinton family “compound” after Bill left the White House provided housing for their Secret Service protection and their families – for which they paid rent…to the Clintons. As if they needed the money.

    They have both become wealthier almost by the week since that public report. They are both part of corporate America; this is public knowledge which no one disputes. This on-going increase in her/their level of wealth says to me that she will be in no hurry to increase the much needed tax rate on the wealthy. Nor can she possibly understand the necessity of maintaining OUR Social Security benefits and/or Medicare/Medicaid coverage even though she was involved in authoring healthcare bills during Bill’s administration.

    Her friendly demeanor with low level staff is helpful to her politically and maybe she is a friendly-natured person. Nice that she has maintained friendships from her childhood but, so what? Many of us have done that; it is even easier to do thanks to social media such as Facebook. This does not qualify her to be president; her corporate America status (with ever-increasing wealth) will continue the problems faced by President Obama (her opponent in 2008). The results will continue lack of job creation to repair the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, will not ease current student loan debts or make money available for higher education for others, will not stop the draining of public education funds at state levels, will she offer Constitutional protection against racism, religious bigotry, anti-LGBT laws…and on and on. With Hillary Clinton it is the “follow the money” we are trying to rid this government of.

    However; if she gets the presidential nomination I WILL vote for her. I ain’t crazy! I will cringe as I mark my ballot in November; in May here in Indiana I will happily and with hope in my heart heavily mark Bernie Sanders as my candidate, a man for the people.

  6. Pamela,

    “There is a candidate who gets it. Hillary is not it.”

    Hillary gets it. She wants to win and would have a good chance of being President. Bernie Sanders could never win. America is not Vermont. And if he did, we would be in worse shape than France in 1935.

    You’re right when you say she won’t do very much. However, what she can do, that Bernie Sanders can’t do, is stop a neo-fascist Republican from being President. That has to be our number one objective for NOW.

    I want the America that you so well portray. But that’s an impossibility at this moment in history. We have to concentrate on preventing a political CATASTROPHE in the U.S. that could trigger a likewise cascading scenario throughout the world wide socio/political and financial systems.

  7. To: Pamela Fiore
    Thank you, Pamela, for your endorsement of Hillary Clinton as the most experienced, intelligent and educated person to serve as POTUS, exactly what we need in this dumbed-down America after the Bush ignorance. It was a toss-up but now, after reading yours, she has my vote in November. It’s the least I can do to oust some Republicans, especially those dangerous Republican Fascists from Florida and Texas.

  8. I have to agree with Marv. And remember that no Democrat is going to have a snowball’s chance in hell of holding the ground gained in the New Deal, the Civil Rights Act or the ACA. It won’t matter if either HRC or Senator Sanders wins, the CONGRESS is the driver of action. By the constant obstruction and likely destruction of the system through privatization, suppression and manipulation, those in Congress will call the shots. Unless thing change at a congessional level, the backward slide will continue.
    As an example of the continued drive to control the Congress by the 1%, please look at the candidacy of Trey Hollingsworth, a Tennessee multi-millionaire capital wealth manager who is self-financing his run for the 9th Indiana Congressional seat. He moved to Jeffersonville last year to run for Todd Young’s seat. He is a Tea Party conservative, just like Young, who has lots of money but no Hoosier roots who is exploiting his wealth to cement access to power through the seemingly easy, open path through south central Indiana. Running ads in the Indianapolis media markets to target Johnson County that are fluff pieces with absolutely no content other than to tell us he is an “outsider”. Yes, he really is an outsider, in a literal as well as figurative sense.
    If voters continue to be bought by people like him, do you really think any progressive candidate elected to the Presidency will have any better chance at real leadership with that millstone weighting them down?

  9. Thank you Sheila for sharing personal opinions of candidates from people who actually know them. I truly appreciate this.

    As most women know – we have always had to work harder to do the same or better job for less pay than men and we are typically better prepared by spending our time actually working rather than shooting the breeze on the golf course or socializing over a beer. While the men enjoy those ‘business’ activities, we women are working at our second full time job at home.

    Yet, it is almost always men that prevail when there is an opening for a top level job. On the rare occasion that a woman does get a top level job she may be slandered as a person who slept her way to the top or may be called a b*@^*h for being assertive or aggressive. You know, the very same traits that people admire in men.

    While I support Bernie Sanders, I am concerned that he might not be able to prevail over one of the horrible Republican candidates at general election time. There are also parts of his platform that I disagree with. Hillary surprised me when she reently said we could never have single payer insurance since that is something she promoted while First Lady. Maybe she is saying that to sooth the people who are against it. If she gets elected I hope she reverts back to fully support it.

    Hillary and Bernie are both very intelligent people. Having been the Secretary of State she is known around the world and may be much more respected by the rest of the world than any of the men vying to be our President. Finally, whether this is palatable or not to many of us, she would have a husband that still has a lot of influence and power in this country and the world. That could be very beneficial to our country if she is elected.

  10. Go ahead and vote for Hillary if you want. I’ve said it before but I can barely imagine voting Hillary in November. ugh. What infuriates me is how she gets credit for things while her husband was President! Why? She wasn’t co-President! I just don’t care for her center right thinking. She’s a neocon to me.

    Bernie is my Presidential candidate and I think this cycle is turning away from Hillary, just like it did in ’08. And if Bernie has a record turnout in November, he will be able to beat Trump. I already have visions of Bernie and drumpt at the debates. Bernie will be able to walk all over drumpt and prove that he can’t run a country like a business. What will drumpt do when the people start a revolt against him? Fire them? Nope, can’t fire your citizens. You have to represent everyone and Bernie is the one for me.

    I still get angry when the MSM shows Hillary’s super delegate counts (pledged) against Bernie’s. It’s just dishonest. Just show the actual counts already. sheesh.

  11. I’m going to say this and I know many of you are not going to like it. But the level of anti-Semitism in America which has been MASSIVELY understated by the Anti-Defamation League for over 35 years cannot sustain the election of a Jewish President of the United States.

    In the early 80’s, American Jewish organizations were warned by the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention that if they attempted to combat anti-Semitism they would jeopardize financial support for the State of Israel. Not only has the ADL capitulated, but has actively collaborated in suppressing any “whistleblowers.” Better remember, there are more Baptists ministers in the U.S. than Catholic priests.

    Thus, any attempt in the last 35 years by anyone to publicly reveal the depth of this problem has resulted in retaliation. Just ask Bill Moyers or me.

    Bernie Sanders, even as a popular Senator from Vermont, doesn’t have a clue as to what he would be facing in the general election. If he did, I doubt that he would have entered the race for the Presidency.

  12. The sad thing about delegates having the upper hand is that they vote THEIR choice; primarily ignoring the popular vote in their respective states. So; the primaries and caucuses giving voters a voice in this “land of the free and home of the brave” are often made a mockery of when final decisions are made.

  13. Nancy,

    “Marv, I agree with you.”

    Let me add this. Anything I have pointed out today is based on FIRST-HAND OBSERVATIONS FOR OVER 45 YEARS. I’m lucky to be alive. At least up until this point.

  14. I am most impressed by intellect, and you’re right, Sheila–sometimes intellect, among other things, is not easily discernible. I supported and still support President Obama because I think he’s really bright and is able to see both the forest and the trees. I feel the same way about Hilary Clinton. Do I think she’s perfect? Certainly not. Do I think she’s the most prepared and most experienced, and really, really bright? I do.

  15. Here today and throughout this campaign I have read comments that confirm the self-centered nature of people. Whether you are a woman or a Jew or hispanic or disabled or a member of whatever group, you see things through those lenses. Just like the working class white guys who think Trump is their savior. We will get who we get depending on who shows up to push the button that day, and the prejudices they drag with them into the voting booth. It’s ugly and random, but it’s better than having kings.

    Pamela Fiore’s comment was refreshing because she sees the fundamental problem, that real change would be possible if we could see beyond our own mental filters, but that we seem to be incapable of doing that. Keep fighting, Pamela.

  16. So now Hillary is bad because she has made a lot of money. She is also bad because she is getting credit for her husband’s actions.

    I remember a time when success was considered a good thing.

    I note that all those things Bill did that people don’t like, like NAFTA, DOMA, etc. are now being brought up as reasons to NOT vote for Hillary. I never agreed with either of those policies, but I have a long memory and I remember Republican threats to push a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. At that time, every state that had put such an amendment on their state ballot passed it.

    I have always liked Bernie Sanders. He has been the Senate’s crazy uncle who says whatever he wants. He hasn’t been particularly effective in producing new legislation. His policies will never get passed by either the House or the Senate. I think it is highly unlikely that he can win, no matter who the Republican candidate is.

  17. “If Bernie has record turnout in November”… hasn’t that been the problem of democrats since forever – the unreliable youth vote? I wouldn’t hang my hat there if I were you. Bernie isn’t even maintaining Obama’s turnout levels from 2008, but you know who is turning out record levels of voters? Republicans. America isn’t going to elect a non-religious socialist whose committed to taking away the employer health care they like and replacing it with a government plan.

  18. The harsh truth is that Bernie Sanders is, at this time, doing much more harm than good. He’s raising the expectations of principally young white voters to levels that are unattainable. And, consequently, is making Hillary Clinton look IMPOTENT on those issues. That’s the last thing she needs with the prospect of running against the likes of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.

  19. Being bright/smart does not equate to good judgement. I know alot of people who are very bright as proven by IQ, SAT/ACT, etc…but not all of them have good judgement.

    Also, people seem to really, really hate her. I think some of that is because of Bill and some of it is because she doesn’t represent their idea of how a woman should behave, and also alot of bad press. I voted for Obama and some of my reasoning was I was afraid of obstruction by Congress because of this hate…I underestimated the racism hate…I knew it was there but I thought it would be different.

  20. I don’t know Hillary or Bill or anyone who does so I have to decide who to vote for as a stranger based upon media news not personal anecdotes.

    I know the world that our next President will assume that role in. I also know the world that I’d like that person to leave to my grandchildren. I think that to be effective the next President has to know both worlds but prefer the latter.

    My experience in life is that transitions are always the biggest challanges. We don’t do change well at all. None of us do. So I want the smartest hardest working most dedicated to change President available who can be effective today and in love with tomorrow.

    That’s either Bernie or Hillary.

    I think that Hillary would be more effective day 1 in this world but I hope and expect that she’d stay close to Bernie as an architect of tomorrow.

    The world is changing and we need to keep up as a minimum and lead as a stretch goal. Nobody in the GOP has even a clue. We need a clean sweep. That takes someone who knows how to exert great influence out of the starting blocks.

    I wish that the voters of the 50s hadn’t decided to deprive us of our democratic choices by limiting Presidential terms but they did.

    So we do what needs to be done. Love Bernie’s vision but elect all Democrats led by Hillary.

  21. I do think that the transition from Obama to Hillary will put racism back on the back burner and sexism back on the front burner. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

  22. “The above comment” was a statement that Bernie Sanders is now doing more harm than good. He’s raising the hopes and aspirations of many “young voters” to levels that are unattainable. Consequently, he is making Hillary Clinton look like she’s IMPOTENT when she does not move on those issues.

    That’s exactly what her male opposition, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, want her to portray. And that’s why Bernie Sanders is, for the most part, not attacked by the right-wing media. He’s doing their job for them.

    The end result of this will be the problem of bringing out those “young voters” to vote for Hillary Clinton if she is the nominee.

  23. I have never doubted that Hilary is intellectually qualified for the presidency, nor have I doubted her “likeability”. I’m sure I would enjoy meeting her, even sharing a meal with her. I do not support her for any of the reasons for which people seem to support or vilify a candidate. I do not support her policies. I do not like her close ties to Wall Street. I do not like her stance on the military. I think she is too timid on social and economic issues I favor. That is why I am not supporting Hilary in the primaries. If she is the nominee, I will support her in the general election.

  24. I think that close ties come from the back room not out in public. I don’t worry as much about what gets reported as what doesn’t. I have never seen for instance Ted Cruz even shaking a Koch brother’s hand. But are their close ties? You betcha.

  25. Pete,

    “I have never seen for instance Ted Cruz even shaking a Koch brothers hand. But are their close ties? You betcha.”

    The ties are close like the rings to an onion. Just picture the onion and then fill in the names to the rings. Without very deep intelligence gathering capabilities it’s virtually impossible to do that.

    For a complete picture, you would have to be there at the beginning to observe how the onion grew. That way you could have an accurate portrayal of the multiple ties connecting the Koch Brothers to Ted Cruz. Otherwise, you would be making POLITICAL CHOICES WITH IMPERFECT INFORMATION.

    As a matter of fact, explaining how it is possible to construct such a picture was the main topic of my speech at The First Conference on Sun Tzu’s Art of War in Nashville back on the 27th of February.

    It’s all about targeted intelligence and the capabilities of targeting the likes of George Bush and Sons. It’s the same OODA loop method that John Boyd made famous as a fighter pilot. You have to target the deviant elite just as though they were an enemy aircraft. And make sure you don’t lose the fight. Of course, HOPEFULLY, it will not be fought with bullets, but WORDS.

  26. JoAnn With Hillary Clinton it is the “follow the money” we are trying to rid this government of.

    I totally agree with you. Here are some of the Money Lenders to Hillary’s Campaign:
    Priorities USA Action single-candidate super PAC in support of Hillary Clinton.
    Here are just a few names that have donated:
    SOROS, GEORGE , 12/17/15 $6,000,000 (Yes that is Six Million dollars.)
    SIMONS, JAMES, 01/11/16 $3,500,000
    SABAN, CHERYL, 12/11/15 $1,500,000
    SUSSMAN, DONALD, 12/30/15 $1,500,000
    SPIELBERG, STEVEN, 06/24/15 $1,000,000
    Source Center for Responsive Politics
    Then we have the Speaking Fees per CNN : Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, combined to earn more than $153 million in paid speeches from 2001 until Hillary Clinton launched her presidential campaign last spring, a CNN analysis shows.

    Hillary alone received $675,000 from Goldman Sachs and there are more. She refuses to provide transcripts of her speeches.
    The employees 2,100 or so of Carrier who will lose their jobs here in Indiana, can look to Bill Clinton for signing on to NAFTA.

  27. Bernie Sanders is putting some progressive policy positions into the mix. HRC is center right politician and any of the republicans are to the right of crazy. He is what has been sorely missing in the last thirty years. We need more than two parties. There’s no constitutional limit to the number of parties. If we have enough of them it might get expensive to buy off every candidate. The benefit to Bernie is that he is actually addressing the relevant issues that the kind of money that drives the politics in this country create.

  28. Marv;

    You’ve probably had a cakewalk compared to me. (Capitalism in America is based on racism.) I wrote about this matter months ago. The rages of race have been somewhat subdued during Obama’s terms due to the fact that blacks present no economic threat to the powers that be. That is not the case with Jewry. Upon the day that America feels the Bern, it will fuel the burn!

  29. Earl,

    “Upon the day that Ameria feels the Bern, it will fuel the burn!”

    I don’t know about the cakewalk. But I can’t argue with you on your above statement.

  30. Much has been made of Hillary’s speaking fees. Actually those fees are within the norm for famous ex-government officials. That and writing books is how they make a living after leaving public life. Colin Powel, Condi Rice, Al Gore, etc. all earn $100,000-200,000 per speech. Bernie is still an elected official and cannot earn such fees so it’s not a question of ethics…he’s simply not eligible. And, while I agree that somebody’s ability to maintain life-long friendships and be kind to all that they meet does not qualify them to be president, it DOES speak to their character. I love Bernie’s grand ideas, but as far as I can tell he has not exhibited a superior reputation for leading the adoption of progressive legislation in all of his years in government, so why do we think he could lead such change as president?

  31. Earl,

    “You’ve probably had a cakewalk compared to me.”

    It’s a new day.

    It hasn’t been a cakewalk. I don’t know your background. But I had the benefit of a mother and a father, if that’s what you call them, who every day taught me how to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” Fortunately, I was a very quick learner. I was forced to “fear no evil” in order to stay physically and emotionally alive.

    EVIL is out there. We all know their contemporary names. Pete has continually provided us with the list. And as Sheila has just pointed out they’re, for the most part, both DUMB and MEAN. That’s the common denominator for most of the multi-rich Texas oil men.

    In my 25 years in Dallas, I had the opportunity to have been either an advisor to or prosecutor of the most important ones. The Koch Brothers are only the “bag men.” They don’t make the plans.

    The plans still come out of Dallas. What makes it now more difficult is that the original planners are dead. It’s hard to “read the minds” of the dead, but not impossible.

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