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Monday, March 30, 2015

Cruising the Web

George Will reminds us of the Clinton record of both Hillary and Bill.
The party, adrift in identity politics, clings, as shipwrecked sailors do to floating debris, to this odd feminist heroine. Wafted into the upper reaches of American politics by stolid participation in her eventful marriage to a serial philanderer, her performance in governance has been defined by three failures.

Her husband, having assured the 1992 electorate that voting for him meant getting “two for the price of one,” entrusted to her the project that he, in a harbinger of the next Democratic president’s mistake, made his immediate priority — health-care reform. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan urged him to begin with welfare reform, just as wise Democrats wanted President Obama to devote 2009 to economic recovery rather than health care, perhaps sparing the nation six years and counting of economic sluggishness.

Hillary Clinton enveloped her health-care deliberations in secrecy, assembling behind closed doors battalions of the best and the brightest — think of many Jonathan Grubers weaving complexities for the good of, but beyond the comprehension of, the public. When their handiwork was unveiled, it was so baroque that neither house of a Congress controlled by her party would even vote on it. This was one reason that in 1994 Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years — a harbinger of 2010, when Obamacare helped end Nancy Pelosi’s tenure as the first female speaker.

Clinton’s Senate interlude was an uneventful prelude to her 2008 presidential quest, which earned her, as a consolation prize, the State Department. There her tenure was defined by the “reset” with Russia and by regime-change-by-bombers in Libya.

Russia has responded by violently dismembering a European nation. Libya was the object of “humanitarian intervention,” an echo of Bill Clinton’s engagement in the Balkans that appealed to progressives because it was connected only tenuously, if at all, to the U.S. national interest. Today, Libya is a humanitarian calamity, a failed state convulsed by civil war and exporting jihadists.

These episodes supposedly recommend a re-immersion in Clintonism, a phenomenon that in 2001 moved the Washington Post to say, more in anger than in sorrow, that “the Clintons’ defining characteristic” is that “they have no capacity for embarrassment.”
George Will then goes on to remind us of all the garbage associated with the end to Bill Clinton's presidency. Younger voters might not know of all that sleaze, but do the voters who remember all this, and who will be reminded in coming months, really want to go through all this again?

Byron York visits reviews the "long, complicated story of Hillary Clinton's Benghazi subpoena."
Now that the public knows Hillary Clinton destroyed all the emails on her secret server -- her lawyer told the House Benghazi Committee that there's nothing left to search -- a question remains: Did Clinton destroy documents that were under subpoena from Congress?

The answer is more complex than it might seem. There's no doubt Clinton withheld information that Congress demanded she turn over, and some Republicans believe the documents she destroyed were covered under a subpoena as well. But a look at the story behind the subpoena and other document requests from congressional Benghazi investigators is a tale of obstruction, delay, and frustration that underscores the limits of Congress' power to investigate Benghazi. Clinton and her aides had the means to make life very difficult for Republicans trying to learn the full story of the attacks in Libya, and they did just that....

And what if a secretary of state simply refuses to comply with a requests and subpoenas? "We can hold them in contempt or run to the U.S. Attorney," notes the Republican. "But guess what? Nothing is going to happen."

The bottom line is that the system of congressional investigations has a very difficult time dealing with an official who acts in bad faith, as Hillary Clinton did in the Benghazi affair. She hid documents from investigators for more than two years, and then, when investigators wanted to see the larger group of documents from which she selected what would be released, she destroyed the whole thing.

Trey Gowdy is determined to piece together the full story of the secretary of state's actions and communications before, during, and after the Benghazi attack. The last few weeks have shown just how tough that job will be.

While they're celebrating Harry Reid's reign in the Senate, perhaps they could do what the conservative media have been doing - revisiting the sleaze and questionable deals that have made him a very wealthy man.
In 1998, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid paid $400,000 for two pieces of residential land outside Las Vegas. It was a complicated deal. Reid secretly transferred ownership of the property to a company set up by his friend and lawyer Jay Brown, who then convinced the local government to re-zone the land for commercial development. In 2004, Brown sold it to a group of developers and Reid walked away with $1.1 million.

"The complex dealings allowed Reid to transfer ownership, legal liability and some tax consequences to Brown's company without public knowledge, but still collect a seven-figure payoff nearly three years later," the Associated Press reported in 2006. "Reid hung up the phone when questioned about the deal during an AP interview."

It was a classic Harry Reid transaction: legal but a little shady, and undoubtedly lucrative. Business deals like that allowed Reid to do very well during his years in the Senate, spent of late in a luxury condominium in Washington's Ritz Carlton.

Marco Rubio is hoping to reprise the success that brought him from being an underdog candidate for the Senate in 2010 to the winner in November.
That said, Rubio's broader political profile is immensely attractive to a wide range of Republicans. His record on a host of issues is decidedly conservative, and he communicates his ideology as effectively as anyone in his party. At the same time, Rubio, the bilingual son of immigrant parents who worked as a bartender and a maid, articulates his conservatism in an aspirational way. This combination allows him to claim a broad appeal that would allow him to attract new demographics—particularly young people and minorities—into a party desperate for diversification.

Many Republicans believe that Rubio would be the GOP's strongest general-election competition against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But after six years of bashing President Obama's inexperience—arguing that he'd only served one partial term in the U.S. Senate before running for president—it's evident already that some Republicans will be skeptical of giving Rubio, 43, that same opportunity.
Of course, the Republicans he would face in the primaries are not Charlie Crist. So few people are.

Daniel Pipes looks at how modern Islamists seem to delight in destroying historic sites and artifacts as they take over new territories. The list is depressingly long.
While the seizure and appropriation of other monuments began at the very inception of Islam (e.g., the Kaaba), the destruction that has reached orgiastic heights with ISIS is something new; note that nearly all the examples listed here date from the 21st century. Turned around, those recently destroyed antiquities survived so long because Muslims had left them alone. In this regard, things are far worse these days than ever before — not a surprise, as Islam is in its worst shape ever. All other major religions have moved beyond such crudely violent impulses, whose motive is unacceptable and whose results are tragic. Is there a Middle Eastern country that exults in its multi-religious heritage, celebrates ancient artifacts on coins and stamps, builds fabulous museums for its antiquities, treats archeology as a national pastime, and studies manuscripts instead of burning them? Well, yes, there is. It’s called Israel. The rest of the region could learn a thing or two about historical appreciation from the Jewish state.

David Harsanyi explains what there was in Ted Cruz's announcement for his candidacy that any student of American history should find familiar whether one is a believing Christian or an atheist.
As an atheist, I suppose I should be deeply troubled by Ted Cruz’s God-heavy presidential announcement. Although the Texas senator’s blast of old-fashioned American exceptionalism garnered most of the chortling media’s attention, it’s what troubles me the least about his aspirations. If the politicians treated the ideals of the Enlightenment as if they were handed down from heaven rather than a pliable set of guidelines perpetually bending to accommodate the vagaries of contemporary politics, I imagine the world would be a better place. They don’t.

As one reporter for Yahoo! News asked during Cruz’s speech on Twitter: “Bizarre to talk about how rights are God-made and not man-made in your speech announcing a POTUS bid? When Constitution was man-made?”

The Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This founding document informs the Constitution, which restricts government from meddling in important areas of our lives. That’s how the Founders saw it. That’s how we’ve pretended to see it for a long time. Some of us believe that these natural rights, divine or secular, are universal, that they can’t be repealed or restrained or undone by democracy, university presidents, or rhetorically gifted presidents.

If that’s God’s position — or, more specifically, if enough people think that’s His position — well then He’s my co-pilot, as well.

By the way, here’s John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address on Jan. 20, 1961: “And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”

Weird, huh?

On one side of the deep cultural divide, the very notion that God tells us anything is silly. That’s why you see many journalists react with confusion or with contemptuous tweets or feel the need to highlight something so obvious. On a political level, the idea that God can give us unalienable rights only threatens an agenda that doesn’t exactly hold your right to live in peace without interference sacred. And this lack of reverence for rights will lead to a serious battle between religious freedom and progressive aims.

Eliana Johnson looks at the series of unforced errors that Scott Walker has made since he shot to the head of the polls back in January and points to his staff as not being ready for the bright lights.
According to several people who have worked with Walker over the years — most of whom requested anonymously to speak candidly — the central problem in the Walker organization is that the governor has long served as his own campaign strategist — and he’s obviously a good one. As a result, he’s never had to build a large team of political professionals and delegate to it.

“He’s his own chief strategist, he’s his own speechwriter, he’s his own PR person,” says a Wisconsinite who has known the governor since his days as a county executive. “That may work when you’re a county executive. It’s a little more problematic when you’re the governor of a state, but you absolutely can’t do that when you’re running for president.” The Washington Post once called Walker a “hands-on tactician fixated on his public image” who “operated as the county executive, chief of staff, press secretary and campaign strategist all at once.”

“There’s a little speculation that his inner circle is like a dot, it’s like two or three people,” says Sykes, “because he’s very, very talented at these things.”
Remember when Obama was claiming that he was better at every job his campaign staff did than they were. He was LeBron. Well, no one is that good and, even if he were, comparative advantage would suggest that he should delegate. I bet even LeBron doesn't mow his own lawn.

Jonah Goldberg explains how the Bergdahl fiasco exemplifies all the Obama fiascos we have witnessed.
What I find interesting about the Bergdahl story is that it is the quintessential Obama fiasco. If you were compiling a checklist of all the things that drive conservatives crazy — and by conservatives I basically mean people who are (a) paying attention and (b) not enthralled in the Obama cult of personality — the Bergdahl story would achieve a near-perfect score.

The Obama M.O. remains remarkably consistent. He announces some initiative, policy, or presidential action. The public rationale for the move is always rhetorically grounded in some deep, universally shared principle, even if the real agenda is something far more ideological or partisan. The facts driving the decision are never as the White House presents them. Indeed, the more confident the White House appears to be about the facts, the more likely it is they’re playing games with them.

Sometimes the facts are simply made up. There are millions of “shovel ready jobs” right around the corner! “You can keep your doctor!” The Benghazi attack was “about a video!” “One in five women are raped!” “The Islamic State isn’t Islamic!” “These exclamation points are totally necessary!” At other times, the facts are selectively deployed. “Something something tax breaks for corporate jets mumble mumble poor Warren Buffet’s secretary’s tax bill blah blah Spain is winning the future with solar panels” and, course, “core al-Qaeda has been decimated” (in which “core al-Qaeda” is defined as “the bits of al-Qaeda that have been decimated”).

The Obama response to all opposition is to either attack the motives of his critics or to dismiss the objections as mere politics or ideology. When Obama met with congressional leaders back in 2009, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan made substantive critiques of Obamacare, and Obama responded by waving away their objections as mere “talking points” — as if any facts written on a sheet of paper suddenly become untrue if you can call them “talking points.”

Republican 1: “It is unsafe to smoke cigarettes around the propane tank.”

Republican 2: “Mass collectivization of agriculture has not worked well in the past.”

Republican 3: “You should not feed salmon to grizzly bears using your lap as a plate.”

Obama: “Those are just talking points…..Ahhhhh! Get this bear off of me!”

When Senate Democrats, led by Bob Menendez (now conveniently under the Department of Justice’s thumb), expressed concerns about Obama’s overtures to Iran, Obama reportedly sympathized, saying he understood their plight, what with the pressure from “donors.” The insinuation, obviously, is that Obama is doing the right thing, while those opposed were motivated by fear of nefarious unnamed “donors” cracking their whips (between servings of lox and bagels, no doubt). Only Obama’s motivations are pure, noble, and fact-driven. Only his opponents are ideologues incapable of “putting politics aside for the good of the American people,” as he likes to say.

There are other anatomical features of an Obama outrage. A few come to mind:

He has a tendency to frame issues in such a way that America is the villain and America’s enemies have a point.

He has an outsized faith — fueled equally by ego and the media’s eagerness to take his side — in his ability to persuade the public not to believe their lying eyes.

Since Obama sees himself as the People’s Tribune and the sole champion of what is right and good, he has little to no use for Congress or legal or constitutional requirements to work with it.

And, of course, there’s the incompetence factor — amplified by groupthink in the White House bunker. They may think Obama is the smartest guy in the room, but they also all think they’re geniuses who just happen to agree with each other. This creates a near total blindness to facts, data, and opinions that don’t line up with their worldview.


Using the above criteria, the Bergdahl story is quintessential Obama.

Invoking high-minded principle? Check!

Really motivated by partisan and ideological agenda? Check!

Made-up facts? Check!

Critics denounced as partisan ideologues opposed to high-minded principle? Check!

Group-think-driven White House’s failure to anticipate the political downsides? Check!

Flagrant contempt for Congress and its laws? Check!

The National Journal looks at how Harry Reid passed the Affordable Care Act and allowed the mistakes in the bill go through without corrections resultiing in the case before the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, if you have your health insurance through an exchange, expect surprises when you do your taxes.

Ah, proof that you don't have to be intelligent to rise to an administrative position at an Ivy League university.
A video sting operation shows Cornell’s assistant dean for students, Joseph Scaffido, agreeing to everything suggested by an undercover muckraker posing as a Moroccan student.
Scaffido casually endorses inviting an ISIS “freedom fighter’’ to conduct a “training camp” for students at the upstate Ithaca campus — bizarrely likening the activity to a sports camp.

Is it OK to bring a humanitarian pro-“Islamic State Iraq and Syria” group on campus, the undercover for conservative activist James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas asks.

Sure, Scaffido says in the recorded March 16 meeting.

Scaffido doesn’t even blink an eye when the undercover asks about providing material support for terrorists — “care packages, whether it be food, water, electronics.”

How about supporting Hamas?

No problem at all, Scaffido said.
“The university is not going to look at different groups and say, ‘You’re not allowed to support that group because we don’t believe them’ or something like that. I think it’s just the opposite. I think the university wants the entire community to understand what’s going on in all parts of the world,” Scaffido said.

The undercover asked if he can invite “a freedom fighter to come and do like a training camp for students.”

Scaffido responds, “You would be allowed to do something like that. It’s just like bringing in a coach, to do a training, a sports trainer or something,” the Cornell official said.

The State Department includes both ISIS and Hamas on its list of terrorist organizations.
Given how James O'Keefe's efforts usually work, I wouldn't be surprised to see other such videos to be released. Or maybe other university administrators are not as stupid as this guy.

The National Journal profiles Hugh Hewitt and how he has grown to be the "go-to pundit" of the Republican establishment. Even Democrats like going on his show.
IF REPUBLICAN pundits fall on a scale from the bombastic right-winger Rush Limbaugh on one end to the civilized centrist David Brooks on the other, then Hewitt is Limbaugh-like in his ideology but Brooks-like in his presentation. In other words, he's an intellectual's ideologue. "He sees himself as a responsible alternative to so much of what's out there," Gearan says. When I tell Hewitt that one Republican I spoke with called him a "gentleman's conservative," he smiles: "Oh, I like that."

Hewitt is popular enough with the base to have hosted a nationally syndicated show for 15 years—and safe enough for the establishment to thrust him into the debate spotlight this fall. In fact, it's hard to find a Hewitt hater anywhere within the GOP. "Hugh's hitting a peak," says David Webb, a tea-party leader and now host of The David Webb Show on SiriusXM. "He's frankly gained the credibility. It's about doing what you do well, gaining the credibility, and people come to you and say you have a voice and you have an audience."

He has a knack for landing on the most conservative possible position a political pragmatist could take.

Jeff Jacoby explores Obama's hypocrisy with Netanyahu.
IT TOOK Bibi Netanyahu nearly a week to apologize properly for his inflammatory comment on Israel’s election day warning that Arab voters were “heading to the polls in droves.” On Monday, speaking at his Jerusalem residence to a group of Israeli Arab community leaders, the newly reelected prime minister expressed his regret: “I know the things I said a few days ago wounded Israel’s Arab citizens. That was not in any way my intention, and I am sorry.”

But even after four and a half years, there has been no apology from Barack Obama for his inflammatory remarks just before the 2010 election, when he exhorted Latinos to generate an “upsurge in voting” in order to “punish our enemies and . . . reward our friends.” Nor has the president ever expressed regret for his running mate’s racially-tinged warning to a largely black audience in 2012 that the GOP was “going to put y’all back in chains” if Mitt Romney won the White House. In fact, the Obama campaign insisted no apology would be forthcoming.

Under normal circumstances, there would be no reason to link these episodes. But the White House pointedly reproached Netanyahu for his distasteful words. “This administration is deeply concerned by divisive rhetoric that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens,” Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters the day after the election. The president himself declared in an interview that Netanyahu’s “rhetoric was contrary to what is the best of Israel’s traditions,” and warned that it “starts to erode the meaning of democracy in the country.”

Fair enough — except for Obama’s egregious failure to meet his own standard. The candidate who captivated America with his promise to transcend partisan and racial rancor turned out to be the most consistently polarizing president in modern history. He hasn’t scrupled to inject barbed racial comments into the nation’s political discourse, but if he has ever candidly apologized for doing so, it must have been on deep background. Obama’s contempt for Netanyahu is nothing new, but before he lambastes other political leaders for their “divisive rhetoric,” the president really ought to take a good look in the mirror....

When Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei declaims “Death to America!,” as he did in a speech last week, an unruffled White House brushes it off as “intended for a domestic political audience.” Doesn’t it cast doubt on Tehran’s trustworthiness? Not to worry, Obama’s press secretary assured CNN. Iranian negotiators have “demonstrate[d] a willingness to have constructive conversations.”

But there is no “domestic political audience” allowance for Netanyahu. If he says one thing today and something different tomorrow, the American president’s wrath knows no bounds.

Perhaps Netanyahu should be flattered that Obama holds him to such a high standard of constancy. The president has certainly never demanded it of himself. On a whole slew of issues, Obama has adamantly taken one position, then cast it aside when it was politically advantageous to do so.

He stoutly told AIPAC that Jerusalem must remain the undivided capital of Israel. Then he took it back.

He endlessly promised voters that if they liked their existing health plan, they could keep it. Then he took it back.

He repeatedly explained that he didn’t have the authority to unilaterally change or ignore immigration law. Then he took it back.

He coldly warned Syrian dictator Bashar Assad that any use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line” calling for a military response. Then he took it back.

He firmly asserted that he was not in favor of same-sex marriage. Then he took it back.

Time after time, the president has come down clearly on one side of a controversial policy debate, only to walk away from it and end up on the other side. “We cannot simply pretend that those comments were never made,” says the White House witheringly about Netanyahu. Hypocrisy, thy name is Obama.

Jay Bilas has some very good ideas about how to bring the free market to college sports.
Under the pretext of preserving amateurism, the NCAA prohibits college athletes from earning compensation tied to their performance.

Mr. Bilas thinks the rules are hogwash. “No other student on any campus is restricted from earning whatever they can earn in whatever area they can earn it,” he notes. That includes techies, musicians and actresses like Emma Watson, who earned millions for playing Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” movies while attending Brown University....

Under Mr. Bilas’s ideal system, college athletes would be paid what the market deems them to be worth. They could earn remuneration from the colleges and cash in on endorsement deals like their professional counterparts. Critics of that idea, including the NCAA, argue that this would corrupt college sports. President Obama last weekend weighed in on the debate by declaring that compensating athletes would “ruin the sense of college sports” and create “bidding wars” for players. The fear is that deep-pocketed programs will be able to buy up the best players, which would make smaller colleges less competitive.

Mr. Bilas scoffs: “What they are calling a ‘bidding war,’ the rest of the world calls business,” he says. “What most reasonable economists would say is: ‘No, actually, if these universities could pay, the smaller, lesser universities would have better opportunities. They could marshal their resources.’ ” For example, he says, Wichita State can’t compete for players with the University of Kansas. However, if colleges could pay, Wichita State might be able to offer the Jayhawks’ third recruit a better salary and poach him.

Mr. Bilas argues that schools are, in a sense, already competing like this. There are no restrictions on coaches’ compensation. “Should we not have nicer facilities at the bigger schools because the smaller schools can’t afford them?” he asks. Point taken.....

Median revenues at the top 120 NCAA Division I programs doubled to $56 million in 2012 from 2004. More than a dozen college-sports programs gross over $100 million a year. Mr. Bilas predicts that the pot will continue to expand. “Nobody could imagine when I was a kid that people would be paying $100 for a ticket to a college-football game—and they’re doing it,” he says.

But he stresses that his beef isn’t that the raw totals are too high; it’s that the ban on paying players skews the market and misallocates resources. For instance, some college basketball players might not bolt for the NBA after one year if they could get paid. “It’s a huge distortion because they don’t pay their primary revenue drivers, which is the players,” he explains. “The NBA doesn’t pay as much for coaches” or “build the facilities that college builds.”

Further, he argues that the compensation ban encourages rather than deters corruption. Many universities, such as Syracuse and the University of Southern California, have been sanctioned by the NCAA because athletes received money under the table. “Right now a player is prohibited from having an agent,” Mr. Bilas says. “That means the only contact an athlete is going to have is with unethical ones because the ethical agents are on the sidelines.”

Under the Bilas system, colleges and athletes would negotiate contracts that could include a noncompete clause, to induce players to stay for their full college terms, and a behavior clause in case they run afoul of the law. Athletes could unionize if they want, as football players at Northwestern University last year sought the approval of the National Labor Relations Board to do.

“The rest of the world operates in a free market. It’s really not that big of a deal. It’s amazing how we can all handle this free-market system, but the athletes can’t,” Mr. Bilas exclaims. Opponents of paying athletes, he says, act as if “the world is going to spin off its axis, that dogs and cats are going to be living together—all these doomsday scenarios.” The real reason why the NCAA is fighting the free market, he says, is that “they don’t want to lose control of the money.”
Exactly. The NCAA and the schools are raking in millions. That's the real reason that they don't want to introduce any reform that would take some of that money from their pockets and put it in the hands of the ones earning that money for them.

Ah, the Dukies are not only good at basketball, but also smart about it.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cruising the Web

Sorry for the delay in posting, but it's Spring Break and I get to sleep extra late instead of my usual 5:30 AM wake-up call. And one must have priorities and with three Triangle teams in the Sweet Sixteen, I am spending a lot of my free time reading NCAA analysis and watching videos. And I'm keeping my fingers crossed for NC State and Duke tonight well enjoying UNC's loss last night as well as a somewhat forlorn hope that the Irish can down Kentucky tomorrow night.

Well, good riddance. Harry Reid will not run for reelection next year. He was probably going to have a lot of trouble winning the election and leading the minority is not that fun anymore. Reid's legacy is a dirty one. He has tarnished the Senate and left it worse than he found it.
His strategy of “filling the amendment tree” blocked Republican senators from offering their own amendments to force Democrats into politically embarrassing debates and votes. When frustrated Republicans attempted to force Reid to consider their amendments by voting against his motions to close debate, Reid accused the GOP of “filibustering” the important work of the Senate.

Prompted by the liberal wing of the conference, Reid changed the Senate’s longstanding filibuster rules in 2013 to further weaken the minority party. Young progressives had had the filibuster in their sights for years, even though some Democrats were skeptical that getting rid of the tool was a good idea long-term—Democrats like Harry Reid, once. “If some had their way, and overruled the Senate parliamentarian, and the rules of the Senate were illegally changed so that the majority ruled tyrannically, then the Senate​—​billed to all as the world’s greatest deliberative body​—​would cease to exist,” he said in 2008.

Reid’s slash-and-burn strategy was effective at getting major liberal policy goals passed. While Democrats’ Senate ranks dropped in both the 2010 and 2012 elections because of these policy gains, Reid held on just long enough to stop Republicans from being a fully effective check on Obama. But his iron-fisted control over the process also hurt red-state Democrats’ abilities to distinguish themselves from their party when political winds shifted toward the GOP. Former senators Blanche Lincoln, Russ Feingold, Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu, Kay Hagan, Mark Udall, and Mark Begich can partially thank Reid for their current titles. The Democratic conference Reid will leave behind is smaller and more liberal than the one he took over in 2005.

Charles C. W. Cooke writes about Reid's so-called "service" to the U.S. Senate.
Today we will hear a lot about Reid’s “service” to the Senate and to the American people. Ha! “Service” indeed. The truth of the matter is that Harry Reid is a stone-cold killer who has damaged Washington considerably, who has elevated his own political preferences above the institution he was elected to protect, and who has made worse the partisan rancor that our self-described enlightened class claims to abhor. The greatest service he can do America is to go away.

From a purely Machiavellian perspective, there is a strong case to be made that Reid has been the most effective federal politician in the United States over the last decade or so. In order to protect the president and to advance his movements’ goals, Reid has been willing to diminish the influence, power, and effectiveness of his own institution; in order to thwart his opponents, he has demonstrated an extraordinary capacity to play dirty — a capacity that sets him apart even from other harsh players such as Chuck Schumer, Ted Cruz, and Dick Durbin; and, in order to satisfy his own need to feel powerful, he has perfected the scorched earth approach that has kept Obama’s presidency on life support since November of 2010 (in my estimation, the Democratic party’s success during the 2013 shutdown was the product of Reid’s obstinacy and resolve, not Obama’s).
Cooke links to this reminder from Ed Morrissey.
By any objective measure, Reid has been a blight on the Senate and on Congress. He declared the Iraq war “lost” while Americans were still fighting there, and he derailed a budget process that had worked well before his ascent into leadership. He stripped the Senate of one of its debate functions after sabotaging the amendment process, and nearly destroyed regular order. On top of that, Reid used his post to commit McCarthyite character assassination of Mitt Romney, claiming to have inside knowledge that Romney hadn’t paid taxes in ten years, a smear that turned out to be utterly false. He has been a malevolent force for years in American politics, and nothing he did in Washington will improve the place as much as his leaving it.

Even is disgusted with the administration's attempt to pretend that their policy in Yemen has not been an absolute failure.
If this sounds like a disaster, that's because it is. The Obama administration, which just earlier this week was touting its "Yemen model" as a success in counterterrorism strategy, has not been eager to own up to the country's disintegration. And that has come out in a series of muddled, highly cringe-worthy statements given to the press to explain how the US is handling the crisis. It will not leave you feeling confident in the administration's grasp of what to do about Yemen's chaos.
Read some of those quotes. You will cringe and be totally disgusted.

Even our European allies dislike the deal that Obama is negotiating with Iran. So that means that the administration has take out their anger on....our allies. But of course.
Efforts by the Obama administration to stem criticism of its diplomacy with Iran have included threats to nations involved in the talks, including U.S. allies, according to Western sources familiar with White House efforts to quell fears it will permit Iran to retain aspects of its nuclear weapons program.

A series of conversations between top American and French officials, including between President Obama and French President Francois Hollande, have seen Americans engage in behavior described as bullying by sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

The disagreement over France’s cautious position in regard to Iran threatens to erode U.S. relations with Paris, sources said.

Tension between Washington and Paris comes amid frustration by other U.S. allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. The White House responded to this criticism by engaging in public campaigns analysts worry will endanger American interests.

Western policy analysts who spoke to the Free Beacon, including some with close ties to the French political establishment, were dismayed over what they saw as the White House’s willingness to sacrifice its relationship with Paris as talks with Iran reach their final stages.

Watch White House spokesman decline to answer whether the President views Netanyahu in "the same light" he views Vladimir Putin.

As Peter Wehner points out, Obama has been obsessive about two goals regardless of the consequences: weakening Israel and emptying out Gitmo.
But what made this particular case even more problematic is that Bergdahl was freed in exchange for five high-value Taliban figures who had been held captive in Guantanamo Bay. As several outlets and individuals have pointed out, getting back a soldier who was almost certainly a deserter was simply a pretext. The main goal of President Obama is to empty Guantanamo Bay. It is something the president declared he wanted to do during his first day in office and it’s something he is committed to doing before his last day in office. Swapping Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders–several of whom are trying to return to the battlefield so they can kill more Americans–was the convenient (if explosively contentious) excuse. The Wall Street Journal reminds us that Mr. Obama told NBC that emptying Gitmo “is going to involve, on occasion, releasing folks who we may not trust but we can’t convict.”

So we have a president with at least two obsessions: One of them is attacking the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and weakening the Jewish State of Israel; the second is to empty Guantanamo Bay and release terrorists committed to killing as many Americans as possible.

We’ve never seen anything quite like this president.

Josh Kraushaar notes that the Democrats have set up problems for their 2016 Senate races as they try to figure out what their party stands for.
And already, there are several primaries that would pit the Democratic Party's pragmatic liberal wing against the true-blue progressives. Democrats may not end up with significantly more contested primaries than in the past, but the ideological stakes will be higher. The battles are shaping up to be over core issues splitting the party: entitlements, support for Israel, national security, and others. The intraparty divisions that President Obama has suppressed and Hillary Clinton has avoided will be litigated down the ballot, and the stakes won't be for control of the Senate, but for control of the party's future....

The prospect of a few competitive Democratic primaries normally wouldn't be worth noting. They pale in comparison to the messy, consequential fights that have divided the GOP over the last several election cycles. But what makes these looming battles relevant now is that they're a sign of the creeping demand for ideological purity among Democrats, as well as of the declining role of leadership in being able to shape the races to their liking. These are the same factors that led to the recent Republican skirmishes.

In case you have heard a lot of liberal outrage over Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act that Mike Pence just signed, here is an explanation of what the law really says and can do. It's amusing how a law modeled on a federal law that passed unanimously in 1993 and was signed by Bill Clinton is now seen as so very outrageous.

Tom Gross explains what a "shocking breach" it was for how the Pentagon declassified its analysis of Israel's nuclear program last month.
In the declassified document, the Pentagon reveals supposed details about Israel’s deterrence capabilities, but it kept sections on France, Germany, and Italy classified. Those sections are blacked out in the document.

The two main exceptions in the international media that wrote about the declassification at the time were the state-funded Iranian regime station Press TV and the state-funded Russian station RT.

Both these media were rumored to have been tipped off about this obscure report at the time by persons in Washington. (Both the RT and PressTV stories falsely claim that the U.S. gave Israel help in building a hydrogen bomb. This is incorrect.)

Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons. To do so might spark a regional nuclear arms race, and eventual nuclear confrontation.

The declassification is a serious breach of decades’ old understandings concerning this issue between Israel and its north American and certain European allies.
Does anyone think it was a coincidence that they declassified the Pentagon analysis of Israel's program, but not that on France, Germany, and Italy? And that it would take place right at the time of controversy over Netanyahu's speech before Congress.

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As Bowe Bergdahl is cited for desertion, it isn't irrelevant to note all the Democrats who praised the swap of Taliban prisoners for Berghdahl.
Hillary Clinton, Obama's former secretary of state, defended the deal in the days following. Clinton dismissed claims at the time that Bergdahl had deserted as "irrelevant." "We bring our people home," she said. Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice said Bergdahl had served with "honor and distinction."

Congressional leaders were effusive in their praise as well.

“Today is a joyful day for our nation," said House minority leader Nancy Pelosi in a May 31 statement. "As Sgt. Bergdahl returns home, we join in celebrating his safe return, and in expressing our gratitude for the relentless dedication of all the service members, intelligence officers, and diplomats who worked so hard to make this day a reality."

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, then the majority leader, took to the Senate floor on June 4 to castigate Republicans criticizing the exchange. "As the president said, this is not a victory for him. It is a victory for the United States military and our country," said Reid.

For another side of Mitt Romney, enjoy his appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon this week. It's a shame that we didn't see more of that man in 2012.

With all that an elementary school principal has to be concerned about, why take the time and effort to force a seven-year-old student shave his head because he had gotten a military-style haircut to honor his stepbrother who is in the army? Sometimes, I just don't understand what some public-school administrators are thinking.

In the spirit of March Madness, Casey Breznick has set up bracketology for Obama administration scandals. Picking the worst one is a tough job. Filling out the NCAA bracket is a breeze in comparison.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cruising the Web

So just about everything that Obama administration tried to tell us about his trade of Gitmo prisoners for Bowe Bergdahl was false. Tom Bevan writes,
So, far from the fairy tale of a hero’s homecoming that President Obama tried to spin for the American people that Saturday morning 10 months ago, this story doesn’t have a happy ending for America. In his effort to empty the Gitmo detainee facility, the president traded five hard-core terrorists for a man who now stands officially accused of abandoning his fellow soldiers. He very may well be court-martialed and spend a good deal of his life behind bars. It’s the Taliban 5 who, beginning in just a few short weeks, get to live happily ever after.
But then fairy tales are exactly what most actions on national security by this administration have been.

As the WSJ writes,
At the time of the release, Mr. Obama said he had a sacred obligation as Commander in Chief to do everything possible to bring the sergeant home. Maybe so, but the President made his real motives clear when he noted that the transfer was part of “the transition process of ending a war” and that he wanted to “whittle away” the number of Gitmo detainees. That, he told NBC, “is going to involve, on occasion, releasing folks who we may not trust but we can’t convict.”

This is the language of a President more concerned with pursuing his ideological fixations, and fulfilling a misbegotten campaign pledge, than winning a war or securing the country....

Meanwhile, the war in Afghanistan shows no sign of ending, while an emboldened Taliban can look forward to getting their old commanders back after their obligatory year in Qatar ends in June. Sgt. Bergdahl will now face a court martial, but we already know that the White House is guilty of deserting its obligations to U.S. security.

For example, do you remember when Yemen was being held up by the administration as an example of this administration's successful approach to fighting terrorism? Yeah, how has that turned out?

A. B. Stoddard, writing for The Hill, explains hw Israel has become a trap for Hillary.
As Hillary Clinton prepares to sell herself as the next leader of the free world, she will want to balance herself somewhere between the Obama administration, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the U.S. Congress on a nuclear arms deal with Iran, and between President Obama and Bibi in the spat that threatens the bipartisan nature of American-Israeli bond.

On the issue of Israel, there will be no sweet spot for the former secretary of State. Democrats can only hope she pulls off a safe landing.

When Clinton finally comes out from behind Twitter as a candidate for president, all questions are fair game: what the terms of a nuclear arms deal with Iran should be, whether Netanyahu should have spoken before Congress without the blessing of the White House, what should be done about those politically expedient comments Netanyahu made before his reelection. Is a peace deal possible under Netanyahu? Where does she stand on a Senate bill that would give Congress more input over the Iran talks? How should the U.S. tackle rising anti-Semitism in Europe, and how can the trust that has been lost between the United States and Israel since 2009 be restored? What say you, Madam Secretary?
Political opponents are always searching for wedge issues to split the other party's base. Israel will be just such an issue. She's going to have to defend her actions in the Middle East as Secretary of State and decide whether or not to separate herself from Obama's clearly anti-Israel stance.

Oh, good news. Joe Biden is playing the long game for 2016. He's still picturing himself in the Oval Office behind the big desk. And even if he doesn't run, he's going to be working to make sure the Democrats don't bash Obama in their efforts to win in 2016.
Even if Biden continues to stay on the sidelines of the presidential contest, advisers say he feels he has an important role to play in 2016 in shoring up the Obama administration’s legacy. By traveling to early states to tout the White House’s record on the economy, health care and the environment, Biden is planting a rhetorical marker for any candidates who might try to stray too far from Obama.

“I know that we’ve been a political heavy load to carry,” Biden told House Democrats at their retreat in Philadelphia in late January, before calling on those lawmakers to “double down” on Obama’s success. “Let’s not make any apologies for what we did. Explain why what we did worked … Stick with it. Own it.”
You got that, Hillary? Own it.

Mary Katharine Ham sums up a story from Reason about how all sorts of unauthorized people at the IRS can have access to your tax information with the headline: "IRS has less identity theft security than your average Etsy shop."

George Will looks at the arguments by John Tammy in his new book, Popular Economics: What the Rolling Stones, Downton Abbey, and LeBron James Can Teach You about Economics, concerning how wealthy entrepreneurs are a sign of economic health for a country instead of the terrible problem that liberals want to make it. Though, of course, they don't disdain liberal billionaires, just the conservative ones.
When John D. Rockefeller began selling kerosene in 1870, he had approximately 4% of the market. By 1890, he had 85%. Did he use this market dominance to gouge consumers?

Kerosene prices fell from 30 cents a gallon in 1869 to 6 cents in 1897. And in the process of being branded a menacing monopoly, Rockefeller's Standard Oil made gasoline so cheap that Ford found a mass market for Model T's.

Monopoly profits are social blessings when they "signal to the ambitious the wealth they can earn by entering previously unknown markets." So "when the wealth gap widens, the lifestyle gap shrinks."

Hence, "income inequality in a capitalist system is truly beautiful" because "it provides the incentive for creative people to gamble on new ideas, and it turns luxuries into common goods." Since 2000, the price of a 50-inch plasma TV has fallen from $20,000 to $550.
Henry Ford doubled employees' basic wage in 1914, supposedly to enable them to buy Fords.
Actually, he did it because in 1913 annual worker turnover was 370%. He lowered labor costs by reducing turnover and the expense of constantly training new hires.

All these thoughts are from John Tamny, a one-man antidote to economic obfuscation and mystification.

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), who called economics "the dismal science," never read Tamny, a Forbes editor, editor of RealClearMarkets, and now author of the cheerful, mind-opening book, "Popular Economics: What the Rolling Stones, Downton Abbey, and LeBron James Can Teach You About Economics."

In the early 1970s, when the Rolling Stones were coining money and Britain's top tax rate was 83%, Keith Richards, lead guitarist and social philosopher, said: "That's the same as being told to leave the country."

The Stones decamped to France, leaving Britain, Tamny notes, to collect 83% of nothing....

Is it regrettable that Americans are not doing the assembly jobs for which Chinese are paid the "latte wage"?

Actually, Americans incessantly "outsource" here at home by, for example, having Iowans grow their corn and dentists take care of their teeth, jobs at which Iowans and dentists excel and the rest of us do not.

LeBron James could be an adequate NFL tight end, but why subtract time from being a superb basketball player? The lesson, says Tamny, is that individuals — and nations — should do what they do better than others, and let others do other things.

Millions of jobs, he says, would be created if we banned computers, ATMs and tractors. The mechanization of agriculture destroyed millions of jobs performed with hoes and scythes. Was Cyrus McCormick a curse?

The best way to (in Barack Obama's 2008 words to Joe the Plumber) "spread the wealth around," is, Tamny argues, "to leave it in the hands of the wealthy." Personal consumption absorbs a small portion of their money and the remainder is not idle. It is invested by them, using the skill that earned it. Will it be more beneficially employed by the political class of a confiscatory government?
Ah, if only such common sense lessons were taught to students rather than all the whining and moaning about income inequality.

Max Boot describes the Obama efforts to realign the Middle East to his desired specifications.
Data point No. 1: President Obama withdrew U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011 and is preparing to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2016, even while keeping a few more troops there this year and next than originally planned.

Point No. 2: The Obama administration keeps largely silent about Iran’s power grab in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, even going so far now as to assist Iranian forces in Tikrit, while attempting to negotiate a nuclear deal with Tehran that would allow it to maintain thousands of centrifuges.

Point No. 3: Mr. Obama berates Benjamin Netanyahu for allegedly “racist” campaign rhetoric, refuses to accept his apologies, and says the U.S. may now “re-assess options,” code words for allowing the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state over Israeli objections.

Taken together, these facts suggest that Mr. Obama is attempting to pull off the most fundamental realignment of U.S. foreign policy in a generation. The president is pulling America back from the leading military role it has played in the Middle East since 1979, the year the Iranian hostage crisis began and the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. He is trying to transform Iran from an enemy to a friend. He is diminishing the alliance with Israel, to lows not seen since the 1960s.

Call it the Obama Doctrine: The U.S. puts down the burden, and Iran picks up the slack.
Imagine if Obama had campaigned honestly on that platform.

Thomas Pyle outlines how the renewable-fuel standards mandating ethanol is "one of the worst examples of corporate welfare in America."
When Congress enacted the RFS in 2005, its backers argued it would combat America’s dependence on foreign oil. Today, thanks to huge increases in domestic oil production, the U.S. is significantly more energy independent. In 2005, domestic oil accounted for 40% of total U.S. oil consumption. Now it constitutes three-quarters.

Unfortunately, the mandate has created a number of new problems thanks to its exceptionally poor design. The standard requires refiners to blend volumes—rather than percentages—of biofuels into gasoline based on fuel supplies and the EPA’s annual targets. So when gasoline consumption drops, refiners must increase the percentage of biofuels in the blend.

This is happening now: Gasoline consumption peaked in 2007 and has since dropped 6%. At today’s reduced consumption levels, complying with the renewable-fuel standard would require blending gasoline that contains more than 10% ethanol. That is higher than most cars are certified to use, according to AAA, and it would wreck lawn mowers, weed eaters, boats and motorcycles. The only reprieve has been bureaucratic ineptness at the EPA, which has failed to enforce the mandate and set thresholds for two years in a row.

At the same time, the RFS increases fuel prices. According to a 2014 report by the Congressional Budget Office, the mandate could raise gasoline prices by up to 27 cents between now and 2017. Moreover, ethanol is less energy dense than gasoline, which means that fuel economy drops—and drivers must fill up the tank more often—as ethanol content rises.

The renewable-fuel standard also makes it harder for families to put food on the table. Thanks to the mandate, a large and growing percentage of corn, soybeans and other crops is now used in biofuels production rather than for human consumption. Consider corn: In 2005, 15% of the nation’s corn harvest was used for fuel; today it is 40%. This makes corn more expensive. A 2012 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that the RFS raises costs for chain restaurants by $3.2 billion a year. Those costs are passed on to families in higher prices.

Even the national environmental lobby is now expressing concerns. The World Resources Institute recently found that a gallon of ethanol—throughout its journey from stalk to pipe—emits more carbon dioxide than oil, which “undercuts efforts to combat climate change.”
So it doesn't achieve its stated purpose and has all sorts of pernicious unintended consequences. Rather like Obamacare.

And here is another effort by the Obama administration to undermine Israel.
n a development that has largely been missed by mainstream media, the Pentagon early last month quietly declassified a Department of Defense top-secret document detailing Israel's nuclear program, a highly covert topic that Israel has never formally announced to avoid a regional nuclear arms race, and which the US until now has respected by remaining silent.

But by publishing the declassified document from 1987, the US reportedly breached the silent agreement to keep quiet on Israel's nuclear powers for the first time ever, detailing the nuclear program in great depth.

The timing of the revelation is highly suspect, given that it came as tensions spiraled out of control between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama ahead of Netanyahu's March 3 address in Congress, in which he warned against the dangers of Iran's nuclear program and how the deal being formed on that program leaves the Islamic regime with nuclear breakout capabilities.

Another highly suspicious aspect of the document is that while the Pentagon saw fit to declassify sections on Israel's sensitive nuclear program, it kept sections on Italy, France, West Germany and other NATO countries classified, with those sections blocked out in the document.
So is it a coincidence that one of the few FOIA requests on foreign affairs that the administration has respected was about Israel and came out just before the Israeli election?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cruising the Web

This is really one of the funnier efforts by the administration to demonize Israel. The WSj reported yesterday that Israel had spied on the nuclear talks between Iran and the U.S. And the administration is just so very angry. Not that Israel might have been spying since we all know that countries spy on each other. If we hadn't known that, Edward Snowden surely made it clear that the U.S. spies on our allies. And Israel denies that they spied on either the U.S. or its allies. As the story states, they say they got their information through other means.
Israeli officials denied spying directly on U.S. negotiators and said they received their information through other means, including close surveillance of Iranian leaders receiving the latest U.S. and European offers. European officials, particularly the French, also have been more transparent with Israel about the closed-door discussions than the Americans, Israeli and U.S. officials said.
And how did the U.S. find out about this operation? Well, the U.S. was spying on Israel.
The White House discovered the operation, in fact, when U.S. intelligence agencies spying on Israel intercepted communications among Israeli officials that carried details the U.S. believed could have come only from access to the confidential talks, officials briefed on the matter said.

No, it isn't any intelligence efforts by the Israelis that have angered the administration.
The espionage didn’t upset the White House as much as Israel’s sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program, current and former officials said.

“It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the matter.
Oh, no! How despicable of Israel to share with the U.S. Congress details that the Obama administration is desperately trying to keep from them.

So how did the WSJ get this story? It's rather clear that it was leaked to them by U.S. officials since those are the people attributed throughout with the information. Why would they leak this story to the media? It sounds rather like the administration wanted to put out there another reason for why they so despise Netanyahu's government.

But why shouldn't the Israeli government want to know what was going on in negotiations that so directly impact their country? And isn't it quite telling that the Obama administration tried to keep them out of the loop?
Americans shouldn’t be surprised, said a person familiar with the Israeli practice, since U.S. intelligence agencies helped the Israelis build a system to listen in on high-level Iranian communications.

As secret talks with Iran progressed into 2013, U.S. intelligence agencies monitored Israel’s communications to see if the country knew of the negotiations. Mr. Obama didn’t tell Mr. Netanyahu until September 2013.

Israeli officials, who said they had already learned about the talks through their own channels, told their U.S. counterparts they were upset about being excluded. “ ‘Did the administration really believe we wouldn’t find out?’ ” Israeli officials said, according to a former U.S. official.
Maybe if the Obama administration hadn't been so determined to keep Congress out of the loop, Israel wouldn't have had to take care of letting legislators know what Obama is up to. I understand that, during delicate negotiations, U.S. diplomats don't want to share information with 535 members of Congress. But a president who cared at all about getting Congressional leaders on board for a controversial agreement would keep at least the leaders of both parties and heads of the Foreign Relations committees informed. Woodrow Wilson arrogantly thought he didn't need to talk to Republicans at all about his negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference. That mistake resulted in the Senate refusing to ratify the Treaty of Versailles which resulted from those negotiations. If he'd brought some Republicans along with him, he might have experienced a different outcome. If Congress does manage to block this terrible deal, Obama can look to his own arrogance in trying to conclude a deal while keeping Congress out of the picture. And that is why the administration is so offended at Netanyahu's temerity.

And here is yet another sign of the fatuousness of this administration's approach to Iran. Guy Benson summarizes,
If you ask the White House, any effort to hold Iran accountable for its actions poses an unacceptable threat to the current, fragile nuclear negotiations. The regime violates the interim agreement? It was just an accident, move along. Congress asserts its authority by demanding a role in the process? Outrageous meddling. Increased sanctions are threatened if Tehran walks away from the table? A veto-worthy provocation. France warns against giving away the store? "Not constructive." Brand new demands from the mullahs? We'll deal with it. Will the Obama administration also chastise UN inspectors for attempting to do their jobs? Iran's evil, illegitimate, brutal regime is playing hardball because they know whom they're dealing with across the table. That's why they're evidently quite confident that they'll also get away with this:
An Iranian official on Tuesday rebuked the chief of the U.N. atomic agency for demanding snap inspections of Iran's nuclear sites, saying the request hindered efforts to reach an agreement with world powers, state TV reported.
Oh, of course we should trust the mullahs not to lie about any of their nuclear program. It's not as if they haven't lied to the IAEA before. Bret Stephens wrote about this in November.
Does it matter what sort of deal—or further extension, or non-deal—ultimately emerges from the endless parleys over Iran’s nuclear program? Probably not. Iran came to the table cheating on its nuclear commitments. It continued to cheat on them throughout the interim agreement it agreed to last year. And it will cheat on any undertakings it signs.

We knew this, know it and will come to know it all over again. But what’s at stake in these negotiations isn’t their outcome, assuming there ever is an outcome. It’s the extent to which the outcome facilitates, or obstructs, our willingness to continue to fool ourselves about the consequences of an Iran with a nuclear weapon.

The latest confirmation of the obvious comes to us courtesy of a Nov. 17 report from David Albright and his team at the scrupulously nonpartisan Institute for Science and International Security. The ISIS study, based on findings from the International Atomic Energy Agency, concluded that Iran was stonewalling U.N. inspectors on the military dimensions of its program. It noted that Tehran had tested a model for an advanced centrifuge, in violation of the 2013 interim agreement. And it cited Iran for trying to conceal evidence of nuclear-weapons development at a military facility called Parchin.

“By failing to address the IAEA’s concerns, Iran is complicating, and even threatening, the achievement of a long term nuclear deal,” the report notes dryly.

These are only Iran’s most recent evasions, piled atop two decades of documented nuclear deception. Nothing new there. But what are we to make of an American administration that is intent on providing cover for Iran’s coverups? “The IAEA has verified that Iran has complied with its commitments,” Wendy Sherman, the top U.S. nuclear negotiator, testified in July to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “It has done what it promised to do.” John Kerry went one better, telling reporters Monday that “Iran has lived up” to its commitments.

The statement is false: Yukiya Amano, the director general of the IAEA, complained last week that Iran had “not provided any explanations that enable the Agency to clarify the outstanding practical measures” related to suspected work on weaponization. Since when did trust but verify become whitewash and hornswoggle?
Was there ever a U.S. president so eager to exist in a fantasy world just so he could pretend to produce some landmark bit of policy that will be doomed to disaster?

And now the White House is shrugging off the Ayatollah Khamenei chanting this weekend "Death to America." Apparently, whatever Netanyahu may or may not have said about a Palestinian state is much more dismaying to this administration than what the Ayatollah says while supposedly negotiating in good faith.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest refused to acknowledge that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had backtracked on his pre-election rhetoric against a two-state solution.

The administration appears to have found a talking point that can help it create further separation between the two countries and have not changed their stance since Netanyahu’s views changed.

While Netanyahu has expressed support for a two-state solution, so long as Palestine splits with Hamas, the White House has said they will “reassess” its position with Israel.

Jim Acosta questioned Josh Earnest on why the White House has not accepted Netanyahu’s redaction.

“The president has said things that he has reversed over the years,” Acosta said.

“Well, as I said before, words matter,” Earnest said.

Iran’s Ayatollah led thousands to chant “Death to America” just days ago while the countries continue to negotiate a nuclear deal Israel opposes.

“Do those comments give this White House any pause about moving forward with a nuclear deal with that country?” Acosta asked Earnest.

Earnest said the comments only underscore the need for a deal. When pressed to explain the Ayatollah’s comments, White House officials dismissed it as pandering to a base.
So if Netanyahu said something in the heat of a democratic election that may have been pandering to his base but the administration doesn't like, that leads them to reassess their policies toward Israel. But chanting "Death to America"is simply domestic pandering that the White House can ignore.

Allahpundit wonders if
they’re now so invested in a legacy-building detente with Iran that they’re willing to spin “death to America” rhetoric from the mullahs to get it done.
It would seem so. Doesn't that tell us all we need to know about this administration's approach to Iran?

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki tries to elucidate their approach to Iran in a typical for this administration incoherent fashion.
I would say, one, as a reminder, even if there is a deal with Iran, it doesn’t mean we let slide or forget, whether it’s the comments, the – or more importantly the actions, state sponsorship of terrorism, their human rights record, the fact that they’re holding American citizens – they remain – they continue to hold American citizens, including a Washington Post reporter in their jails. I mean, these are all issues that we remain very concerned about. Those concerns are not going to be soothed by a deal.

But we also feel that preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is not only in our interests, it’s in the interests of the international community, and that’s why we’re pursuing it. It’s not about trust.
Got that? It's not as if we trust these terrorist-supporting, America-hating, American hostage-holding Iranians. We just want to make an agreement with this government we don't trust.

Given this administration's failures in foreign policy, Thomas Sowell wonders what accomplishments Hillary Clinton brings to her argument that she deserves to sit in the Oval Office.
Before Barack Obama entered the White House and appointed Mrs. Clinton Secretary of State, Al Qaeda operatives in Iraq had notified their higher ups, stationed in Pakistan, that their cause was lost in Iraq and that there was no point sending more men there.

Hosni Mubarak was in charge in Egypt. He posed no threat to American or Western interests in the Middle East or to Christians within Egypt or to Israel. But the Obama administration threw its weight behind the Muslim Brotherhood, which took over and began terrorizing Christians in Egypt and promoting hostility to Israel.

In Libya next door, the Qaddafi regime had already given up its weapons of mass destruction, after they saw what happened to Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But President Obama's foreign policy, carried out by Secretary of State Clinton, got Qaddafi removed, after which Libya became a terrorist haven where an American ambassador was killed, for the first time in decades.

The rationale for getting rid of Middle East leaders who posed no threat to American interests was that they were undemocratic and their people were restless. But there are no democracies in the Middle East, except for Israel. Moreover, the people were restless in Iran and Syria, and the Obama-Clinton foreign policy did nothing to support those who were trying to overthrow these regimes.

It would be only fair to balance this picture with foreign policy triumphs of the Obama-Clinton team. But there are none. Not in the Middle East, not in Europe, where the Russians have invaded the Crimea, and not in Asia, where both China and North Korea are building up threatening military forces, while the Obama administration has been cutting back on American military forces.

Hillary Clinton became an iconic figure by feeding the media and the left the kind of rhetoric they love. Barack Obama did the same and became president. Neither had any concrete accomplishments besides rhetoric beforehand, and both have had the opposite of accomplishments after taking office.

They have something else in common. They attract the votes of those people who vote for demographic symbolism -- "the first black president" to be followed by "the first woman president" -- and neither to be criticized, lest you be denounced for racism or sexism.

Does this surprise anyone?
Not long before he became governor of Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe received special treatment on behalf of his electric-car company from a top official at the Department of Homeland Security, according to a new report from the department’s inspector general.

McAuliffe was among several politically powerful individuals from both parties, including Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), seeking special visas for foreign investors through a program administered by the department. But intervention on behalf of McAuliffe’s GreenTech Automotive company by Alejandro Mayorkas, now the department’s No. 2 official, “was unprecedented,” according to the report.

So much for the Obama budget.
President Obama’s budget suffered its latest ignominious defeat when the Senate rejected it on a 98-1 vote Tuesday evening, capping off the first votes of the budget season.

Democrats objected, saying the plan wasn’t really Mr. Obama’s, but Republicans said it had all the same numbers as the president’s blueprint, and so the vote counts as a rejection of his fiscal year 2016 plan.

“This is the president’s proposed budget,” said Sen. John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who forced the vote by offering the amendment, complete with the tax hikes, spending increases and deficit targets Mr. Obama had projected in the document he sent to Congress last month.

Rejecting presidential budgets has become standard in recent years. The Senate defeated Mr. Obama’s fiscal year 2011 plan by a 97-0 vote and his 2012 plan by a 99-0 vote.
It has gotten harder and harder to teach the budget process to my students. There is the process as laid out by law of what should happen, but that hasn't happened for years. And when I discuss how the OMB director puts together a president's budget and works on that for months, I also have to tell them that it is usually DOA when it gets to Capitol Hill. Much like the whole legislative process, I have to teach my students the procedures as they should be and what actually goes on. Teaching AP Government is an exercise in cognitive dissonance.

Well, this makes you feel secure, doesn't it?
Could Lois Lerner still take a look at your tax returns on IRS computers? It sounds preposterous, but a new watchdog report says former IRS employees still have access to IRS computer systems long after they have no official business with the information. The report is by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress. The GAO investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars. In the case of IRS security, the report says not well.

This report cites significant deficiencies in the security of IRS financial reporting systems. Millions of Americans who are legally required to file taxes are fearful about fraud. The report says the IRS needs to continue improving controls over financial and taxpayer data. In the case of former IRS workers with continuing access to IRS data systems, they need to be cut off.

One co-author of the report said the IRS horde of taxpayer data can be used by identity thieves. The timing couldn’t be worse for the IRS. The IRS is failing to secure its massive computer systems, leaving private taxpayer data vulnerable to fraudsters and hackers, the new report from the GAO reveals.

Lisa Schiffren explains why Hillary Clinton is not the future.
It’s hard to forget that story, told by the Arkansas state troopers, about Bill and Hillary fighting over her desire to put a pool in the Governor’s mansion, at taxpayer expense, in the nation’s second poorest state. Bill thought it unseemly. Ms. Clinton screamed, “Everyone else has one.”

Remember the fraudulent Whitewater real estate deals, and the famous commodities trade, in which Ms. Clinton “invested” $1000 with a friend who magically turned it into $100,000? And young Mrs. Clinton’s frugality in donating Bill’s used underwear to Goodwill—and taking a tax deduction of a dollar a pair?

Now, with a net worth around $100 million, the Clintons’ income comes through the Clinton Foundation. The ex-president collects hundreds of thousands of dollars speaking to shady businessmen and corrupt third world regimes, among others. The fact that the Secretary of State of the United States found it acceptable to go hat in hand to kings, despots and oligarchs to beg for her family operation boggles the moral sense. It is disgraceful. That it doesn’t generate universal disgust is a legacy of … the Clintons. We are inured to the way they have sold the American presidency by taking money that guarantees access and perhaps future favors. It’s a safe bet that emails on the private server confirm such deals.

America has known Hillary Clinton for 24 years. We met her in 1991. She dresses better these days, and has an air of command. But there are no hidden depths left. She is a political animal, through and through. Elevating her to higher office won’t unleash wisdom, original ideas, or more grace than we’ve seen this quarter century.

Finally, on the ‘first woman’ matter, HRC graduated from Wellesley College in 1969, 45 years ago, at the height of social revolution. She was ambitious and radical. But as a feminist she lacked the courage of her convictions, or she wouldn’t have pursued power through marriage, especially one so sexually humiliating.

Today’s world is peopled with women who graduated in those decades, and pursued serious careers. They have deep experience in the professions, business, and politics. We have female Senators and Governors, who built their own political operations, have measurable achievements, and honest bank balances. A few have wartime military experience. None has faced multiple hearings over legal and ethical lapses. One of them will be the first female president.

Hmmm. I wonder if this quote from Justice Kennedy's testimony before the House committee on the Supreme Court's budget may signify how he's leaning in King v. Burwell, in which one of the outcomes would have the Court leave it in the hands of Congress to fix the mistake in how the Affordable Care Act was written. The administration has urged them not to do that because of the difficulty this Congress would have in passing such legislation.
It is not novel or new for justices to be concerned that they are making so many decisions that affect a democracy. And we think a responsible, efficient, responsive legislative and executive branch in the political system will alleviate some of that pressure. We routinely decide cases involving federal statutes, and we say, “Well, if this is wrong, the Congress will fix it.” But then we hear that Congress can’t pass the bill one way or the other, that there’s gridlock. And some people say, “Well that should affect the way we interpret the statutes.” That seems to me a wrong proposition. We have to assume that we have three fully functioning branches of the government, that are committed to proceed in good faith and with good will toward one another to resolve the problems of this republic.
Might that be a hint as to what Justice Kennedy thinks of the administration's argument? As always, who can predict how Justice Kennedy might decide?