In the 2008 comedy "Tropic Thunder," Ben Stiller plays an actor in a Vietnam War movie who is so far removed from reality that in one scene, he withholds a map he can’t read from his fellow actors who are trying to escape the jungle, unwittingly leading them further into a dangerous environment. Just as a war movie actor is unqualified for leading a real-life mission into hostile territory, allowing any of these eight candidates – both Democrats and Republicans – to hold the nation’s highest office would be reckless and costly for all Americans.
To be clear, “unqualified” doesn’t refer to poll numbers, which are meaningless in themselves. During this time in 2007, the last election when candidates from both parties were running, the Republicans leading in the polls were Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson, respectively, while Hillary Clinton led Barack Obama by more than 20 points. And a candidate’s resume, no matter how illustrious, likewise doesn’t qualify them to run for the presidency. Whether or not a candidate is qualified to occupy the White House should be based solely on their policy positions and voting records as public officials. Using that criteria, here are eight who should be out of the running:
1. Hillary Clinton, Democrat
As the junior U.S. Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton voted for not only the USA PATRIOT Act that codified some of the U.S. government’s most intrusive and unconstitutional surveillance programs, but for the Iraq War resolution that led our nation into the bloodiest boondoggle of the 21st century. As a result of Clinton’s vote and the resulting destabilization of Iraq, thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died – and Iraq is now one of the most dangerous countries in the world, overrun by Daesh (ISIS) terrorists who have destroyed cultural icons, forced children to become soldiers, raped thousands of women, and committed genocide upon the Yazidi population. Even after the Iraq vote, Clinton still hadn’t backed down from her hawkishness. In 2008, Clinton was quoted saying, “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m president, we will attack Iran… we would be able to totally obliterate them.”
As President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State, Clinton created a culture of corruption within the agency, allowing corporations who donated to her family foundation to benefit from State Department contracts and projects. Clinton propagated fracking in a number of Eastern European countries, allowing Clinton Foundation donors ExxonMobil and Chevron to have a foothold into new markets. Meanwhile, a recent report by David Sirota exposed how Clinton’s State Department approved $165 billion in arms sales to 20 countries whose governments donated millions of dollars to her foundation. Many of those countries, like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, have reputations of trampling on human rights.
Hillary Clinton has remained ambiguous about how she would handle a future financial crisis as president. While Bernie Sanders has made his positions clear on breaking up the big banks, jailing the bankers responsible for reckless behavior that crashed the economy, and implementing a financial transactions tax to fund jobs creation, Clinton has only chastised Wall Street for “risky behavior” in public. In private, Clinton gave two closed-door speeches to Goldman Sachs, each paying $200,000. So far, the Clinton campaign has raked in at least $46 million from Wall Street, and there’s still a year and a half to go.
2. John Kasich, Republican
Ohio’s governor, who was elected to his second term last November (yet may miss a debate in his home state due to low poll numbers), has done a great deal of damage to his state’s residents and public services in an effort to reward the rich with tax cuts they don’t need. The budget Kasich just signed gives away $1.85 billion in income tax cuts, almost half of which go to the richest 1 percent of Ohioans, who would pay almost $10,000 less in taxes per person. To balance the revenue shortfall, Kasich’s sales tax increases mean the poorest 20 percent of the state will pay more in taxes. Like many other Republican governors, Kasich’s tax reform takes from the poor to give to the rich.
In addition to his regressive economic policies, Kasich signed a bill into law forcing pregnant women to have an ultrasound before terminating their pregnancy, and needlessly defunding facilities that provide contraception to women. While Kasich and those like him would claim they’re “pro-life,” these policies are actually more harmful to pregnant women and the fetus in their womb, as a woman seeking an abortion and unable to get one may attempt to perform an abortion themselves, causing irreparable harm and even death. Simply providing greater access to contraception would prevent this problem from even occurring. But as George Lakoff pointed out in the book Don’t Think of an Elephant, rabid anti-abortion politicians are motivated more by a desire to punish sexually-active women than out of any self-proclaimed desire to “protect life.”
3. Carly Fiorina, Republican
If former HP CEO Carly Sneed Fiorina had radically transformed her company into a paragon of innovation and workplace fairness, it would make sense to run on her business record. But Carly Fiorina is the embodiment of selfish, destructive corporate greed. Under her tenure, HP’s stock value dropped by 50 percent. Before [firing 30,000 workers]9http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/sep/17/barbara-b...), she forced them to train their replacements.
In 2005, after President Bush and his Republican Congress along with the help of Sen. Hillary Clinton passed the so-called “Jobs Creation Act” – allowing corporations to bring home cash stashed in overseas tax havens in order to pay a 5 percent tax rate (as opposed to the 35 percent corporate rate) – Fiorina repatriated $14.5 billion of HP’s overseas cash, then proceeded to fire 14,500 workers. Before leaving the company she almost destroyed, Fiorina took a $40 million golden parachute – $21 million in cash, and $19 million in stock and pension benefits. Both CNBC and CBS include her in their lists of the worst CEOs of all time.
4. Bobby Jindal, Republican
Louisiana’s governor, who is finishing his second term this year, has become one of Louisiana’s most hated politicians, taking fire from his own party as well as from Democrats. As I wrote previously for Occupy.com, the budget Gov. Jindal recently signed was barely balanced thanks to flimsy accounting illusions that even Republicans in the legislature called “money laundering.” Jindal gave away $11 billion in corporate tax handouts – more than any other state – during his eight years as governor. To make up for Jindal’s new corporate entitlement programs, the state’s public colleges and universities endured almost $700 million in cuts, amounting to approximately $5,000 more in tuition for each student.
If those tax cuts resulted in enough good-paying jobs to provide full employment across Louisiana, they may have been worth it. In one case, an oil and gas company received $1.6 billion in tax breaks for just 150 jobs, meaning the state’s taxpayers had to cough up $7.5 million for each new job. Duck Dynasty even got $330,000 in taxpayer money for each episode filmed there. But even after all those handouts, Jindal’s Louisiana is still the 15th worst state for job growth in the U.S.
5. Scott Walker, Republican
While Wisconsin’s governor has proven himself to be politically savvy enough to dodge a recall effort and win re-election in 2014, he’s been largely ineffective at governing. When Walker took office in 2011, he promised that under his leadership, Wisconsin’s economy would add 250,000 private sector jobs by the end of his first term. But by the time his second term began, Walker had only met 59 percent of that goal. As I previously reported for Occupy.com, Walker set out with a strategy of making more tax dollars available for corporate handouts, and gave millions away to whomever asked for it, often with little to no accountability.
Walker’s own economic development agency violated state law when it failed to track the number of jobs created with taxpayer money, and even outright lost track of $8 million in its first audit. Scott Walker also puts politicians who hate environmental regulations in charge of implementing those regulations, takes legal bribes from donors who ask for favors from the government, allows corporations to have a hand in drafting bills aimed at regulating them, tried to change the state’s open records laws so proof of corporate involvement in drafting legislation would be unavailable to the press, and signed a seven-day workweek into law. So what makes him so politically-savvy, and why is he leading in polls?
In Walker’s own words to a billionaire donor, he “use[d] divide and conquer” on Wisconsin’s working class, pitting unionized public workers against non-union, private sector workers. In the meantime he gave away their tax dollars to corporations who laughed all the way to the bank with nobody left to pay attention – save for Wisconsin’s largely complicit mainstream media which has become little more than a pool of stenographers for Walker and the cronies he’s appointed to state regulatory agencies. The only thing stopping Walker is that his power is, so far, confined to Wisconsin’s borders. A Walker presidency would be game-over for working people.
6. Martin O’Malley, Democrat
Anyone looking for someone to blame for the Baltimore Police Department’s unchecked reign of terror overwhelmingly perpetrated against the black community, or the soul-crushing poverty that has plagued Baltimore’s majority-black neighborhoods, can place it solely on the shoulders of former two-term Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who was Baltimore’s mayor from 1999 to 2007 before moving on to Annapolis.
At the beginning of Martin O’Malley's eight years as mayor, he began a tradition of “zero-tolerance” policing, enabling police to aggressively arrest residents for even the most minor of infractions. O’Malley also greenlit the use of “CompStat,” which analyzes arrest records and crime data. CompStat’s data of police activity showed that – surprise – Baltimore police tended to make more arrests in poorer, black neighborhoods than in wealthy white neighborhoods, causing police to double down their already heavy policing of those communities.
By the time O’Malley was six years into his tenure, Baltimore police had arrested 108,447 people, amounting to over one-sixth of the city getting cuffed at some point in 2005. In 2006, the Maryland ACLU sued the Baltimore Police Department over its pattern of aggressive arrests, resulting in an $870,000 settlement. O’Malley’s policing carried on after he became governor – a 2010 report from the Justice Policy Institute showed that two-thirds of inmates at the Baltimore jail were incarcerated for nonviolent offenses, 55 percent were under 35 years of age, and 90 percent were black.
O'Malley’s leadership even had disastrous consequences before he was mayor. During his eight years as a Baltimore city councilman, O’Malley presided over the taxation and finance committee in which he signed off on multiple, multimillion-dollar handouts to well-connected businesses and developers. One such tax break was a $5 million loan, along with a $5.5 million grant to millionaire John Paterakis, a developer who would build a luxury hotel a mile away from the convention center while avoiding property taxes for 25 years.
In the meantime, Baltimore’s schools suffered as property values soared. Under Maryland’s model for funding schools, state aid is based on the value of property, making property taxes largely responsible for school budgets. Because the value of Baltimore’s gentrified property was up, the state government cut aid to Baltimore’s schools by $35 million last year. Yet, due to property tax exemptions like those O’Malley signed, there’s hardly any property tax revenue left for schools in the first place. Baltimore loses approximately $120 million a year in property tax revenue due to those exemptions, many of which are in place for a decade or more. Martin O’Malley is no different than his Republican counterparts when it comes to astronomical giveaways to corporations.
7. Chris Christie, Republican
Out of all the candidates running, perhaps none are more despised by their own constituents than two-term New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. A recent Monmouth University poll found that 69 percent of New Jersey residents felt that Christie was not presidential material. Of those 69 percent, 89 percent refuted Christie’s earlier assertions that constituents don’t think he’d be a good president simply because they want to keep him as their governor – rather, they simply don’t think he’d be a good president. And yet, Christie soldiers on in early primary states, hoping to convince others elsewhere that an abrasive bully from New Jersey can be palatable to people who aren’t from New Jersey. While I stand by my statement that polls this early are meaningless, it’s still a huge blow to a candidate's credibility if more than two-thirds of their constituents say they hope their governor doesn’t become the next president.
Christie, like many others on this list, relied almost entirely on corporate handouts as a jobs creation strategy. And like the many others on this list, Christie failed, but more spectacularly than almost any other state – the same Pew study that ranked Jindal’s Louisiana as the 15th worst state for job growth ranked Chris Christie’s New Jersey as the 6th worst state for job growth. Christie has given more than $4 billion in corporate tax handouts since taking office in 2011 – many of which go to politically-connected firms. With so much tax money going to corporations, Christie has balanced the budget by drastically cutting public schools. Not long after signing off on a $1 billion cut to education, Christie handed out a $188 million tax break to JPMorgan Chase. It’s no coincidence that under Christie, New Jersey’s poverty rate hit its highest point in 50 years.
8. Jeb Bush, Republican
It takes a lot of balls to be the brother of one of the undisputed worst presidents in U.S. history – one who went to war based on faulty intelligence, completely destabilizing two countries and their neighbors – then run for president proudly proclaiming that brother to be one of your top Middle East advisors.
But, that may just be a favor for a favor, since Jeb Bush served as George W. Bush’s state chairman in Florida for his 2000 campaign, and Jeb may very likely have used his influence to swing 537 Florida votes in his brother’s favor. While Jeb officially recused himself during the recount, the governor’s office in Tallahassee made 96 phone calls to his brother’s campaign during the month-long process. According to the LA Times, 10 of those calls came from a line that Jeb Bush primarily used, one of which went to George W. Bush’s private line in the Texas governor’s office. Jeb also called Karl Rove, George’s top campaign adviser. At one point, he personally visited the campaign office in Tallahassee that served as the recount headquarters, and sat in on a conference call with his brother’s campaign staff.
Aside from questions surrounding his brother’s campaign, Jeb Bush was a champion of regressive taxation as governor of Florida. Out of the $13 billion in tax cuts he passed during his tenure, the largest cut by far was repealing the state’s tax on “intangible assets”like stocks, bonds, and accounts receivable, which largely benefited the wealthiest Floridians. The revenue from the intangibles tax amounted to roughly $600 million a year, which, if properly allocated, may have prevented the presumed deaths of the 500 foster children that Jeb’s ill-equipped agency was unable to track down.
And yet, as state agencies like foster care clearly suffered from a lack of resources under his leadership, Jeb Bush is bragging on the campaign trail about firing 13,000 state employees. This is coming from the same guy who gets paid $75,000 for an hour-long speechand tells struggling Americans to work longer hours if they want more money. It’s hard to imagine a more out-of-touch candidate than Jeb Bush (Donald Trump doesn’t count).
While there are certainly more extremists worth mentioning, these eight candidates stand out more than others as craven ideologues willing to do and say anything to convince those with the deepest pockets to sponsor their way to the White House. American voters mustn’t allow the punditocracy to dictate who is electable and who isn’t – a candidate’s electability should be based only on their values and actions, not their stump speeches.