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Friday, February 27, 2015

Cruising the Web

Do the people in the Obama administration responsible for working against terrorism even talk to each other. Just this week we had Secretary of State John Kerry solemnly assuring us how safe we are from terrorism and how we're at an all-time low for terrorism. Then the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified to the exact opposite.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, testifying on Capitol Hill, catalogued the growing terror-fueled violence in stark terms.

"When the final accounting is done, 2014 will have been the most lethal year for global terrorism in the 45 years such data has been compiled," Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He offered statistics that would appear to challenge other administration officials' claims that the country and world are safer today.

A day earlier, Kerry testified at a separate hearing that, "Despite ISIL, despite the visible killings that you see and how horrific they are, we are actually living in a period of less daily threat to Americans and to people in the world than normally; less deaths, less violent deaths today, than through the last century."
Meanwhile the director of the FBI James Comey was also announcing that the FBI is investigating suspected ISIS supporters in all 50 states.

Is Kerry deliberately lying to downplay the threats and try to increase confidence in this feckless administration, or does he really believe his own claptrap? Which is the more dismaying possibility?

One day Kerry's fatuous testimony will come back to bite him just as Obama's quote about ISIS just being a JV team.

The Obama economy has truly been one for the record books.

What's a little violation of the Constitution matter when the Obama administration is out to shore up Obamacare? Philip Klein explains how the Treasury made $3 billion in Obamacare payments that were not authorized by Congress.
The U.S. Treasury Department has rebuffed a request by House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., to explain $3 billion in payments that were made to health insurers even though Congress never authorized the spending through annual appropriations.

At issue are payments to insurers known as cost-sharing subsidies. These payments come about because President Obama’s healthcare law forces insurers to limit out-of-pocket costs for certain low income individuals by capping consumer expenses, such as deductibles and co-payments, in insurance policies. In exchange for capping these charges, insurers are supposed to receive compensation.

What’s tricky is that Congress never authorized any money to make such payments to insurers in its annual appropriations, but the Department of Health and Human Services, with the cooperation of the U.S. Treasury, made them anyway.

Charles C. W. Cooke looks at the continuing downfall of MSNBC and contemplates the differences between FOX News and MSNBC.
In self-professedly “non-partisan” circles, it is common to hear it said that MSNBC is essentially just a leftward-leaning version of Fox News. This appraisal, I think, is wide of the mark. Contrary to its favored claim, Fox is not in fact “Fair and Balanced” but is a rightward-leaning station with an ideologically driven owner, a clear target audience, and an obvious and pronounced set of political biases. Or, as one wag has put it, Fox is designed to appeal to “a niche market called half the country.” This being so the problem is less that Fox is “extreme” or that it is “out of touch,” and more that it is geared rather unsubtly toward serving one of America’s two philosophical poles. As one can open the New York Times and still easily recognize the country one is discussing, to dive into Fox’s world is to be exposed to a familiar but slanted impression of America and its people. Should viewers seek out a second opinion? Absolutely. Should they automatically discount the one they heard on Fox? No, of course not. In this regard Fox is a little different from MSNBC, which, by unlovely contrast, does not aim at a broad swath of the United States at all, but is instead focused on a fascinating alternative universe to which few would-be viewers have ever been. Its handful of rather ordinary news anchors to one side, MSNBC’s hosts do not so much exist to represent a popular viewpoint as they are put on air to play a set of dramatic roles in what has become a vast and monomaniacal piece of conspiratorial performance art, of the sort that one might see composed by the theater department at Oberlin....

Unlike Rush Limbaugh and Fox News — whose audiences flock in droves to hear a point of view that they will not hear anywhere else — MSNBC has found itself in direct competition with more subtly left-leaning outlets such as NPR, CNN, HLN, and the majority of the country’s national newspapers. This has naturally put it at a disadvantage from which the handful of conservative channels are immune. But that MSNBC has also been so sorely lacking in both talent and sanity has been the real fatal blow. It really is no accident that the channel has been at its most popular when its main attractions were likable and competent and when its output was tolerable to viewers who have more than politics in their lives. At present, it is the winsome Rachel Maddow who dominates the ratings. Back in the day, it was the talented and surprisingly likable Keith Olbermann who brought in the eyeballs. The rest of the charisma-free cast, however, viewers can clearly take or leave. This is no accident.

Similarly, too, it should not come as a surprise that MSNBC “regularly attracted a million viewers” during the period in which its hosts aimed their fire at people who actually held power, or that this audience disappeared when they consciously retreated into advocacy. During the Bush years, a significant number of Americans became desperate to hear views that differed sharply from the prevailing political wisdom of the age, and they turned to Olbermann and Co. to find them. Since that time, however, the government has changed, and with it the center of political gravity. Unfortunately for its architects, MSNBC’s business model was built upon the presumption that transient anti-Bush sentiment would translate neatly into viable amounts of permanent anti-conservative outrage, and that the same people who disliked the previous administration on the merits would be keenly interested in watching a bunch of nearsighted know-nothings rail against invisible bogeymen, abstract nouns, and the omnipotent, omnipresent Koch brothers. As we are beginning to see, this simply did not happen. Nor, I would venture, is it going to. That MSNBC is beginning earnestly to inspect the lifeboats indicates that its higher-ups are aware of the problem. But, unless they are resolved to turn their ship around rather dramatically, they will soon be joining Farrow in the water.
I'm not sure that Keith Olbermann was ever all that likable, surprisingly or otherwise. Witness that he just got suspended from ESPN for tweeting nastily about a Penn State student fundraiser to fight against pediatric cancer. Somehow, the surprisingly likable Olbermann found such an effort by college students to be "pitiful." What a charmer.

Doesn't the army have something better to do than investigate Medal of Honor recipients for nothingburger charges that they don't even bring?

Oh, John Kerry, now you're just playing with us. Now he's dissing Bibi Netanyahu for supporting the invasion of Iraq. That would be the war that Kerry himself voted for.
As Kessler notes, the Los Angeles Times titled a January 2003 story “On Iraq, Kerry Appears Either Torn or Shrewd.” In retrospect he appears anything but shrewd, since Kerry’s equivocation made him a laughingstock and arguably cost him the White House. Presumably he doesn’t mean to revive a joke at his own expense—which of course only makes it funnier.

On Twitter, Dan McLaughlin remarks: “This is a preview of the ‘Hillary didn’t *really* support the Iraq War’ argument.” He links to his own lengthy treatment of the subject, which appeared last spring at the Federalist. His conclusion then: “Hillary Clinton’s best hope of reconciling with those who fail to understand or accept the basis of her Iraq War vote is to bank on yesterday staying gone.”

This week, she’s not getting much help from her successor at Foggy Bottom—compared with whom Mrs. Clinton was much less equivocal in her support for the war and took much longer to renounce it.

Meanwhile, look at the list of prospective GOP presidential candidates (based on the polls we cited in yesterday’s column): Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker. Not one of them was in Congress in 2002. That means there is a very strong likelihood the 2016 presidential election will pit a Democrat who voted to authorize the Iraq war against a Republican who didn’t.

Just imagine what they could do if they attempted something worthwhile: "Media Matters Sics All 45 of Its Researchers on Bill O’Reilly.""

Meanwhile, speaking of supposed media watchdogs, Kevin Williamson details his experience of Polifact doing a so-called "fact-check" of something that Williamson wrote that Polifact had to admit was actually true, but still rated "half true."

There are lessons for Republicans from the past week of the media's aggressive interest in Scott Walker and what he thinks about a range of irrelevant questions.

National Review put up an old column from Byron York reviewing two biographies about Hillary Clinton. It's good to remember what a despicable person she is.
But there’s another sense in which Clinton was right to be concerned. Though bereft of headline-making disclosures, each book contains page after page of new details, some of them so far ignored in the press, that reveal Hillary Rodham Clinton to be even more secretive, even more politically tin-eared, and even more combative than previously known. For example, we’ve all heard about the famous War Room of the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign. But Gerth and Van Natta reveal that across the alley from the War Room was a more secretive effort, headed by Hillary and known as the Defense Team, that really got into the down-and-dirty stuff. The Defense Team’s job was to knock down any allegation, no matter how well founded, about Bill Clinton’s girlfriends, his avoidance of the draft, Whitewater, Hillary Clinton’s legal work — anything that might hurt the campaign. And to do it by any means necessary, legal or not: Gerth and Van Natta report that on one occasion Mrs. Clinton listened to a “secretly recorded audiotape” of Clinton adversaries talking on the phone about the next possible bimbo eruption. “Bill’s supporters monitored frequencies used by cell phones,” Gerth and Van Natta add, “and the tape was made during one of those monitoring sessions.” Who knew that Mrs. Clinton was an early advocate of warrantless wiretapping?

....Gerth and Van Natta also show Clinton employing secret staffers, in the process sneaking around Senate rules that don’t suit her fancy. They show her threatening a staffer with “You’ll never work in Democratic politics again” if the staffer failed to cover up tax returns showing Clinton’s commodities-trading profits. And they show her directing the operation to stonewall the independent-counsel investigations of her husband. Bernstein’s book doesn’t dwell on that kind of detail. But with a lot of prime sources in the Clinton camp, Bernstein goes much deeper than Gerth and Van Natta, portraying a Hillary Clinton who was even more closely involved in the running of her husband’s administration than we thought. And not only more closely involved — she was also even less competent and more politically maladroit than we thought....

Democrats outside the administration were unhappy, too. Bernstein describes a meeting in April 1993 at which Hillary briefed top party leaders on the health-care task force’s progress. When then-senator Bill Bradley suggested that some changes might be required, she told him to forget it; if any lawmakers even tried, she said, the White House would “demonize” them. Bradley later unloaded on Bernstein. “That was it for me in terms of Hillary Clinton,” he said. “You don’t tell members of the Senate you are going to demonize them. It was obviously so basic to who she is. The arrogance. The assumption that people with questions are enemies. The disdain. The hypocrisy.”

And then there was the rest of Washington. During Hillary’s early days in the White House, Washington journalist and social fixture Sally Quinn wrote a much-noted column saying Hillary should remember that she wasn’t elected president. Quinn’s impudence angered Bill Clinton, who raged against Quinn in a conversation with advisers James Carville and Rahm Emanuel. But years later Emanuel told Bernstein, “James and I had the same take on it, which was, ‘God bless Sally for being honest.’ She was f — ing honest.”

And those, as they say, were her friends.

Reading Bernstein’s account, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Mrs. Clinton benefited greatly, both in Arkansas and the White House, from the eagerness of her husband’s supporters to overrate her. “There was too much mythology about Hillary that stretched the facts,” Donna Shalala told Bernstein. Shalala, Bernstein writes, “had always been made uncomfortable by hyperbolic statements from friends and acolytes of Hillary…who put forth the notion that had she pursued her own political career and not deferred to Bill Clinton’s she would have been a governor or a senator in her own right by 1992.” Mrs. Clinton’s fans, Shalala continued, “assume that [just] being smart is enough. And it’s not enough. It’s judgment. It’s experience. It’s being strategic at the right points.” Not Mrs. Clinton’s strong points.
How pitiful the Democratic Party has become that this woman is all they have to put forth in 2016.

Oh, and now there is this revelation from the trove of documents that Judicial Watch has leveraged out of the State Department.
From the very first moments of the terrorist attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her top aides were advised that the compound was under a terrorist attack. In fact, less than two hours into the attack, they were told that the al-Qaeda affiliate in Libya, Ansar al-Sharia, had claimed responsibility.
But that didn't stop Hillary and the State Department from maintaining the fiction for far too long that the attack was the result of a video posted on the internet. But then, what difference does it make that the Secretary of State knowingly lied to the American people?

Christian Schneider explains why the unions are going to lose in their fight to forestall Wisconsin's right-to-work law.
What these [pro-union] groups can't seem to grasp is that Wisconsinites actually support the idea of being able to hold a job without being forced to pay dues to a union. According to a poll that noted Marquette pollster Charles Franklin deemed the best when it comes to asking a right-to-work question, 62% of Wisconsinites said they would support such a bill.

These aren't people who are under the thumb of the Koch brothers or who are necessarily antagonistic toward unions. They are just regular Wisconsinites expressing their views on workplace fairness.

That is why the anti-right-to-work protests this week have been so lachrymose. The 2011 public sector union protests had a festive, carnival-style feel. But the crowds around the Wisconsin Capitol this week have been small and glum. On any given summer Saturday morning, bigger crowds show up around the Capitol for the Dane County farmers market.

The private sector unions know the bill is going to pass, and there's nothing they can do to stop it.

Even the bill's legislative opponents haven't been able to muster up any plausible opposition. In a hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Kenosha) tried to rename right-to-work legislation the "wage theft bill," evidently unaware that forced union dues are the very definition of "wage theft." (However, the most ridiculous argument belongs to the liberal group One Wisconsin Now, which has argued that infant mortality rates are higher in right-to-work states. Not paying union dues now kills babies, evidently.)

In the end, people get that nobody should be forced to financially support a private group from which they believe they get no benefit. And if unions don't want to represent people who don't pay dues, they are under no obligation to do so.
And here's a final kicker for a comparison.
Just go around any union meeting hall and tell all the members they are required to pay dues to the Koch brothers because they are fighting for lower taxes and more take-home pay.
We can imagine the response to that. The Koch brothers they're fighting for what is best for Americans. That is their right. But it doesn't mean that there should be laws forcing people to contribute to their fight. Exactly so for unions.

Charles Krauthammer explains why Obama's proposed deal with Iran is so awful.
The news from the nuclear talks with Iran was already troubling. Iran was being granted the “right to enrich.” It would be allowed to retain and spin thousands of centrifuges. It could continue construction of the Arak plutonium reactor. Yet so thoroughly was Iran stonewalling International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors that just last Thursday the IAEA reported its concern “about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed . . . development of a nuclear payload for a missile.” Bad enough. Then it got worse: News leaked Monday of the “sunset clause.” President Obama had accepted the Iranian demand that any restrictions on its program be time-limited. After which, the mullahs can crank up their nuclear program at will and produce as much enriched uranium as they want. Sanctions lifted. Restrictions gone. Nuclear development legitimized. Iran would re-enter the international community, as Obama suggested in an interview last December, as “a very successful regional power.” A few years — probably around ten — of good behavior and Iran would be home free. The agreement thus would provide a predictable path to an Iranian bomb. Indeed, a flourishing path, with trade resumed, oil pumping, and foreign investment pouring into a restored economy. Meanwhile, Iran’s intercontinental-ballistic-missile program is subject to no restrictions at all. It’s not even part of these negotiations. Why is Iran building them? You don’t build ICBMs in order to deliver sticks of dynamite. Their only purpose is to carry nuclear warheads. Nor does Iran need an ICBM to hit Riyadh or Tel Aviv. Intercontinental missiles are for reaching, well, other continents. North America, for example.
Krauthammer goes on to explain that, now it would be permitted for Iran to have a nuclear weapon future, other countries in the area would rush to develop their own nuclear weapon programs.
The deal now on offer to the ayatollah would confer legitimacy on the nuclearization of the most rogue of rogue regimes: radically anti-American, deeply jihadist, purveyor of terrorism from Argentina to Bulgaria, puppeteer of a Syrian regime that specializes in dropping barrel bombs on civilians. In fact, the Iranian regime just this week, at the apex of these nuclear talks, staged a spectacular attack on a replica U.S. carrier near the Strait of Hormuz.

Well, say the administration apologists, what’s your alternative? Do you want war?

It’s Obama’s usual, subtle false-choice maneuver: It’s either appeasement or war.

It’s not. True, there are no good choices, but Obama’s prospective deal is the worst possible. Not only does Iran get a clear path to the bomb but it gets sanctions lifted, all pressure removed, and international legitimacy.

There is a third choice. If you are not stopping Iran’s program, don’t give away the store. Keep the pressure, keep the sanctions. Indeed, increase them. After all, previous sanctions brought Iran to its knees and to the negotiating table in the first place. And that was before the collapse of oil prices, which would now vastly magnify the economic effect of heightened sanctions.

Congress is proposing precisely that. Combined with cheap oil, it could so destabilize the Iranian economy as to threaten the clerical regime. That’s the opening. Then offer to renew negotiations for sanctions relief but from a very different starting point — no enrichment. Or, if you like, with a few token centrifuges for face-saving purposes.

And no sunset.

That’s the carrot. As for the stick, make it quietly known that the U.S. will not stand in the way of any threatened nation that takes things into its own hands. We leave the regional threat to the regional powers, say, Israeli bombers overflying Saudi Arabia.
Obama would prefer a deal to any possibility of a neutralizing Iran's nuclear weapon program. Sanctions were biting, but Obama gave them up for a mess of pottage.

It turns out that proscutorial discretion doesn't mean that prosecutors actually have discretion.

Jonah Goldberg ponders the fatigue besetting the Left. The decline of MSNBC parallels a broader story.
The president is unbowed, of course. He’s unilaterally using — and abusing — the powers of his office to legalize illegal immigration, throw a wet blanket on cheap energy, and turn the Internet into a government-regulated utility. He has the support of his dwindling party and the equally dwindling mainstream media. But even here his policy agenda is as threadbare as his cultural legacy. A majority of Americans believe race relations have gotten worse since he was elected.

Meanwhile, the cultural Left has disengaged from mainstream political arguments, preferring instead the comforts of identity-politics argy-bargy. You judge political movements not by their manifestos but by where they put their passion. And on the left these days, the only things that arouse passion are arguments about race and gender.

For instance, the feminist agitprop drama The Vagina Monologues is now under fire from the left because it is not inclusive of men who believe they are women. Patricia Arquette was criticized from the right for her Oscar-acceptance rant about women’s wage equality, but the criticism paled in comparison to the bile from the left, which flayed her for leaving out the plight of the transgendered and other members of the Coalition of the Oppressed.

Such critiques may seem like a cutting-edge fight for the future among the protagonists, but looked at from the political center, it suggests political exhaustion. At least old-fashioned Marxists talked about the economy.

Of course liberalism isn’t dead; it’s just resting. But it certainly could use an exciting, charismatic savior to breathe new life and fresh thinking into its ranks. Thank goodness Hillary Clinton is waiting in the wings.

From the vault: Sports Illustrated put up their story from when Kevin Garnett was just entering the NBA. Good times.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cruising the Web

Eliot Abrams explains how the Obama administration has fostered bad relations with Netanyahu and Israel.
First comes the personal relationship and the desire to see Netanyahu lose the election. Recall that Obama became president before Netanyahu became prime minister, and it is obvious that the dislike was both personal and political before Netanyahu had done anything. Obama does not like people on the right, period—Americans, Israelis, Australians, you name it. Obama also decided immediately on taking office to pick a fight with Israel and make construction in settlements and in Jerusalem the central issue in U.S.-Israeli relations. Remember that he appointed George Mitchell as his special negotiator one day after assuming the presidency, and Mitchell was the father of the demand that construction—including even construction to accommodate what Mitchell called “natural growth” of families in settlement populations—be stopped dead. A confrontation was inevitable, and was desired by the White House.

Obama has overplayed his hand, in the sense that in poll after poll Israelis say that they do not support his Middle East policies. Historically, an Israeli prime minister loses domestic support when he cannot manage relations with Washington. This year may be the exception, the time when Israelis want a prime minister to oppose U.S. policies they view as dangerous. They may also believe that the Obama administration is simply so hostile that no prime minister could avoid confrontations.

I well remember how we in the Bush White House handled the poor personal relations between the president and French president Jacques Chirac. In 2004-2005 especially, the two men did not get along (arguing mostly about Iraq and just plain disliking each other as well) but we wanted to prevent their poor personal chemistry from damaging bilateral relations. So National Security Advisor Condi Rice in 2004, and then her successor Steve Hadley in 2005, set up a work-around. The French National Security Advisor Maurice Gourdault-Montagne traveled to Washington almost every month and came to the White House. There the French ambassador to the U.S., Jean-David Levitte, joined him for meetings with key NSC, DOD, and State Department officials. In 2005, Secretary of State Rice would come over from State to join Hadley and several of us on the NSC staff, and in the course of a half-day we would review every issue facing the United States and France. It was a serious time commitment for the American and French officials, but that is because we were determined to quarantine bad personal chemistry and prevent it from infecting the entire relationship—a goal set by President Bush himself.

Quite obviously, President Obama has no such goal. Israeli officials have complained to me for several years about the lack of contacts and communications with the White House. Susan Rice has determined that her job is to make bilateral relations worse, and has established no relationship with her Israeli counterpart Yossi Cohen. So the problem is not just bad chemistry at the top; it is an administration that has decided to create a tense and negative relationship from the top down.

One reason, as noted, is the hope that tension with America can lead to Netanyahu’s defeat in the March 17 election. The second reason is Iran policy. The administration is desperately seeking a deal with Iran on terms that until recently were unacceptable to a broad swath of Democrats as well as Republicans. One after another, American demands or “red lines” have been abandoned. Clearly the administration worries that Israeli (not just Netanyahu, but Israeli) criticisms of the possible Iran nuclear deal might begin to reverberate. So it has adopted the tactic of personalizing the Israeli critique.

As Brendan Finnegan explains, if Scott Walker gets the nomination in 2016, he'll have the Left and their over-the-top response to the labor reforms he instituted to thank. The Left made him into the conservative favorite that he is today.
The attempt to boot Walker by Wisconsin progressives and labor activists accomplished a rare feat: absolute party unity. But instead of unifying Democrats enough to unseat him, it created a brief moment where libertarian, establishment, Tea Party, and traditional conservative members of the Republican Party united to defend him. He just wasn’t some guy: he was their guy and, damn it, they were not going to let him fall. This unity didn’t end with the recall: Walker received a jaw-dropping 96 percent of the Republican vote in 2014 per the exits, and election analysts have frequently pointed to him as the possible “bridge candidate” between the money and masses within the party. Again, without the recall challenge, would he be enjoying such overwhelming party support as he does now? Would he even be dipping his toe in the water?

The ferocity of the anti-Walker attacks during the recall attempt cannot be understated: no stone was left unturned, no “scandal” or slip of the tongue left unmentioned, and this may only help candidate Walker going into 2016. The Democrats spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours digging, scooping, ad-cutting, and hammering. They threw the kitchen sink at the guy in 2012, threw their neighbor’s sink at him in 2014, and now nobody on the block will let them inside to pee. Out of useful topsoil, what do they do now?

Had the Democrats not targeted Walker with a recall, that massive fundraiser network, the national profile, the party unity, and his highly developed get-out-the-vote team almost certainly wouldn’t exist. He may have still won re-election, but he would be just another Midwestern Republican governor who enacted reforms and faced push-back, not the conservative folk hero of a party longing for a win. He would most likely resemble Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a reformer but hardly a man with a cult following. There would still be plenty of new problems with the governor his opposition could cite, instead of leaving him mostly vetted for 2016.

They shot the king and missed, making a balding, sleepy-eyed executive into a god among a growing horde of followers. That’s bad enough for the Progressive set. In the unlikely event he wins the Republican nomination and the presidency? They struck the match that ignited their own national hell.
Thanks, Left. If their actions helped elevate Walker among Republicans above people like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, or Jeb Bush, I am indeed grateful.

Democrats are starting to worry about how old their party leaders have become.

Ed Morrissey discusses what the recent brouhaha over Scott Walker's response to a question as to whether Obama is a Christian reveals about the bubble that the media inhabit.
Put aside the illegitimacy of this question for now; we’ve covered that angle of it enough. Does anyone actually care what Scott Walker thinks about Barack Obama, outside of the media elite that has been in a tizzy over it? Salena spent nearly a week with Walker on the campaign trail, and she told me during the show yesterday that Walker never once brought up Obama’s faith or patriotism; in fact, he barely talked about Obama at all with voters. Nor were voters much interested in Walker’s views about Obama personally, or even on policy; they wanted Walker to tell then what he would do after 2016 rather than what Obama was doing before 2015. It’s not just that the question from Costa and Balz came out of nowhere and has nothing to do with the 2016 campaign — it’s that they’re the only ones who care about it. So for whom are they writing? Each other, it appears from outside the bubble.

Nearly at the same time that this highly-celebrated non-sequitur was unfolding, another Walker story grabbed attention. Walker, an evangelical Christian, has spoken of his reliance on faith to make significant decisions, such as running for President. “I’m still trying to decipher if this is God’s calling,” Walker told the Wall Street Journal. “[Y]ou should only do it if you feel that God’s called you to get in there and make a difference.” To that end, Walker noted, he has been talking with God to see whether this is indeed his calling. For most Americans, this is nothing new; it’s called prayer, and the 56% of Americans who say that religion in their own life is “very important” would understand exactly what Walker meant. Another 22% say that religion is “fairly important,” and would likely also grasp this point easily. That’s almost 4 out of every 5 adults in the US.

And yet, Taegan Goddard of Political Wire, Greg Sargent of the Washington Post, and others found this to be inexplicably strange.
The gotcha question about Obama's religion struck me since one of the interviewers was Robert Costa who was brought on board the Washington Post from the National Review explicitly to cover conservative politicians. We don't know if Balz or Costa asked that question, but I suspect it wasn't Costa. But Morrissey is right that the question served no purpose other than to produce an uncomfortable headline about Walker's answer. Walker could have avoided that with a more adroit answer which, I hope, he'll improve on delivering in the coming month since it is clear that the media will continue to ask such meaningless questions. Morrissey is also right to point out how uncomfortable many media elite are with politicians who refer openly to their faith. I still remember the exasperation with Jimmy Carter's discussions of his faith. Apparently, they have had such little contact in their lives with people of faith that they just can't get their minds around anyone who makes a public profession of his.
Discernment, especially on vocation, takes prayer, meditation, and an openness in one’s spiritual life to the still, small voice of God (for Christians, through the Holy Spirit). It’s what “calling” means — not a calling of our own will but that of God for us to take a certain path, usually closely related to vocations. One can have skepticism over a claim to having a specific calling, of course, but not even knowing about prayerful discernment itself exposes a frightful disconnect between the media and the populace. Snickering over what is a common tenet of faith for the vast majority of Americans says nothing about Walker, but it speaks volumes about the disconnect that we see between the mainstream political press and the people that they are purporting to inform.

Ashe Schow explains why it is a joke to look at Hillary Clinton as some champion of feminism. Remember how sh e led an effort to target women who charged Bill with sexual harassment? There was no solidarity with the sisterhood when her husband's political career was on the line even when he admitted the allegations. But even beyond that her career was built on riding her husband's coattails rather than based on any accomplishment of her own.
Because while Hillary made her own way in the world during the 70s and 80s at a law firm, those doors opened for her after Bill was elected Arkansas attorney general. Prior to that, she was teaching criminal law at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. Now, that could have led to her work at a prestigious law firm and then higher office (worked for President Obama), but her upward trajectory really started because her husband’s name was elevated.

Her career continued to take off as Bill’s did. When he was elected as attorney general and they moved to Little Rock, Ark., she was able to get a job at a prestigious law firm with political influence. When Bill was elected as Arkansas governor, Hillary was appointed to an influential committee and made partner at her law firm, which also began bringing in big name clients because of her marriage to Bill.
Is that the feminist role model women are seeking today? And let's not forget how she won election to the Senate based mostly on a wave of sympathy for having a dog of a husband.

Now climate change fanatics are going after scientists who don't believe sufficiently in the gospel. Since when does science eschew scepticism? Rich Lowry has more on this story,
Consider the plight of Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado, Boulder, who has done work on extreme weather. He, too, is on the receiving end of one of Grijalva’s letters.
At first blush, Pielke seems a most unlikely target. It’s not that he doubts climate change. It’s not that he doubts that it could be harmful. It’s not that he doubts it is caused by carbon emissions. It’s not even that he opposes implementing aggressive policies — namely a carbon tax — to try to combat it.
Pielke’s offense is merely pointing to data showing that extreme weather events haven’t yet been affected by climate change, and this is enough to enrage advocates who need immediate disasters as a handy political cudgel.
It can’t be Apocalypse 100 Years From Now; it has to be Apocalypse Now.
Pielke notes that neither hurricanes, nor floods, nor tornadoes, nor droughts have increased in frequency or intensity since the mid-20th century.
Eager to blame the ongoing California drought on climate change, John Holdren, President Barack Obama’s science czar, challenged Pielke on droughts, citing various research showing that they may be getting worse.
But the bible of the climate “consensus,” the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says that “there is not enough evidence at present to suggest more than low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness (lack of rainfall) since the middle of the 20th century.” Even Holdren’s long written response to Pielke is full of stipulations of uncertainty.

To move a political debate this simply is not good enough. It is impossible to scare people with a long list of methodological imponderables and projections showing far-off harms, if all the assumptions and models hold out over the course of 80 years. So the nuances of the actual science have to be jettisoned for alarmist simplifications.
The imperative is to show that, in Holdren’s words, “climate change is an urgent public health, safety, national security, and environmental imperative” (emphasis added).

It has to be counted a small victory in this project that Pielke will no longer be an obstacle. In a blog post responding to the Grijalva letter, Pielke wrote, “The incessant attacks and smears are effective, no doubt. I have already shifted all of my academic work away from climate issues. I am simply not initiating any new research or papers on the topic, and I have ring-fenced my slowly diminishing blogging on the subject.”

And so the alarmists have hounded a serious researcher out of the climate business. All hail science!

The other day, the head of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, quit amid a sexual harassment scandal and noted in his letter of resignation: “For me the protection of Planet Earth, the survival of all species and sustainability of our ecosystems is more than a mission. It is my religion.”

Is it too much too ask that the man in charge of a project supposedly marshaling the best scientific evidence for the objective consideration of a highly complex and contested phenomenon not feel that he has a religious commitment to a certain outcome?

Why, yes it is. The kind of people who run inquisitions may lack for perspective and careful respect for the facts and evidence. But they never lack for zeal.

There is a rather fishy methodology behind the recent DHS report warning against the violent threat from right-wing terrorists as worse than the threat from foreign terrorists or domestic militia groups.

I've often thought that what was so tawdry about campaign finance regulations is not what is illegal, but what is legal. And the story of the foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation highlight that tawdriness.
The Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration, foundation officials disclosed Wednesday.

Most of the contributions were possible because of exceptions written into the foundation’s 2008 agreement, which included limits on foreign-government donations.

The agreement, reached before Clinton’s nomination amid concerns that countries could use foundation donations to gain favor with a Clinton-led State Department, allowed governments that had previously donated money to continue making contributions at similar levels.

The new disclosures, provided in response to questions from The Washington Post, make clear that the 2008 agreement did not prohibit foreign countries with interests before the U.S. government from giving money to the charity closely linked to the secretary of state.

In one instance, foundation officials acknowledged they should have sought approval in 2010 from the State Department ethics office, as required by the agreement for new government donors, before accepting a $500,000 donation from the Algerian government.
The story leads John Hinderaker to wonder if the Clintons' greed will be their downfall.
Accepting donations to a family foundation from foreign governments while serving as Secretary of State represents extraordinarily bad judgment. Sure, most of the money went to bona fide charitable causes. But there are any number of ways to donate to, say, earthquake or flood relief. Does anyone seriously think that a foreign government would choose the Clinton Foundation as its preferred charitable vehicle unless it sought to curry favor with a) a former president and still leading figure in the Democratic Party, b) the Secretary of State, and c) a possible future president? How dumb do the Clintons think we are?

Moreover, there is reason to suspect that the Clinton Foundation has served as a slush fund to finance the Clintons’ private enjoyments. The New York Post reported in 2013 that the Clinton Foundation had spent more than $50 million on travel expenses since 2003. Think about that: $50 million! That would cover a lot of the globe-trotting for which the Clintons are famous....

The Clintons’ problem is that they are, in fact, greedy. They are bound together by their lust for money. It isn’t a stretch for the average voter to understand that when Hillary extracts $300,000 per speech from public institutions–a laundered campaign contribution that would otherwise be illegal–and the family foundation rakes in millions from foreign governments while Hillary serves as Secretary of State, the Clintons are more interested in cashing on on their position and their notoriety than in serving the American people. You could compare them to the Kardashians, except that the Kardashians don’t pretend to be pursuing some higher goal.
And it has been ever thus with the Clintons. Why should anyone be surprised that they haven't changed?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cruising the Web

As Obama has vetoed the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, let us remember, as Holman Jenkins writes, that oil isn't traveling through our country. It's just doing so by a much more risky method than a pipeline.
It’s better to be lucky than good. President Obama, who arrived promising to heal the planet and halt the rising seas, instead presided over a fossil-fuel renaissance in America. If you were unemployed and found a decent job in Obama’s economy, there’s a good chance it was a fracking job. If things are finally looking up for the middle class, cheap gas is a major contributor.

He was lucky again on July 6, 2013. Thanks to various competing news stories (a plane crash in San Francisco, the Trayvon Martin shooting trial), Americans did not dwell on a fiery oil-train accident in Canada that killed 47. For if there’s one boom Mr. Obama can claim authorship of, it’s the oil-by-rail boom.

A business that barely existed when he took office now moves an impressive million barrels a day. The oil pouring forth from America’s resurgent fields, after all, has to reach market somehow. And as the Journal explained in December, political opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline has “emboldened resistance to at least 10 other pipeline projects across North America. . . . The groups coordinate their moves in regular conference calls and at meetings in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.”

The publication Energy Monitor Worldwide elaborated in September: “Environmentalists and governments are making it more and more difficult to get approval to build pipelines, so producers are increasingly using rail to get their oil to refineries for processing into products that the American public needs. . . . If all the railcars carrying crude oil on a single day were hitched together to a single locomotive, that train would be about 17 miles long.” we are reminded every few weeks, trains will still derail, oil will spill, and messes will have to be cleaned up.

Which raises a question: What are Mr. Obama’s true policy convictions, if any?

After the midterm elections, we might have expected him to try to tempt the new Republican majority with a tax-reform deal in return for a carbon tax. Even if the effort didn’t bear immediate fruit, the way would be pointed toward a long-term bargain to restore growth while addressing climate-change fears.

We also would have expected him finally to wave through the Keystone pipeline, if only out of irritation with green allies for tormenting him over a phony symbolic issue.

Wrong on both counts. Polls show the public supports the pipeline; labor wants the jobs. But for Mr. Obama, the balancing factor is clearly the criticism he would receive from the Sierra Club, the hostile tweets that might be directed at him from millennials, and the money that a handful of green billionaires might redirect to the Clinton Foundation rather than Mr. Obama’s own post-presidential occupations.

What seems absent from his calculations are any practical considerations outside the political bubble, such as the millions of barrels of flammable liquid that will be rumbling through America’s residential neighborhoods aboard mile-long oil trains.
So no one should believe that Obama vetoed the Keystone pipeline out of true concern for the environment. He said he vetoed the bill out of respect for the procedural process. As if the man who ignored the procedural process in taking action to allow illegal immigrants to stay here and to allow extensions on Obamacare to avoid deadlines explicitly written into the law really cares about following correct procedure.

Kevin Williamson explains how extreme the left has gotten in opposing any development in energy infrastructure.
It isn’t just Keystone. The Left is working to block every piece of energy infrastructure of any consequence everywhere in the country, in the hopes that doing so will hobble the oil and gas industries and usher in a new age in which the American economy runs on solar panels and happy thoughts. (Never mind that solar panels are made out of polyester, meaning made out of oil, just as wind turbine blades are made from oil, etc.) In New York, Governor Cuomo has banned modern techniques of gas extraction categorically, while environmentalists are working to regulate into nonexistence the rail infrastructure used to transport oil where pipelines are not available. Others in New York are working to strangle the oil-shipping facilities at the port in Albany.

On the other side of the country, environmental activists are working to block the expansion of marine and rail facilities that enable the export of coal to foreign markets. The Sierra Club has been laboring mightily to block U.S. natural-gas exports to foreign markets.

There are two ways of looking at the fossil-fuel business: One is that the extraction, processing, and consumption of fossil fuels entails both risks and environmental costs, which have to be responsibly managed. The other is: Fossil fuels are evil, and the extraction, processing, and consumption of them must be stopped by any means necessary. That used to be a debate in the environmentalist movement, but it isn’t really a debate any more: The lunatics won. And the lunatics write a great many very large checks to Democrats, and therefore must be accommodated.

That’s why Keystone is being vetoed.

Read more at:

Jay Cost examines whether Jeb Bush has any appeal outside the professional political class. Cost, author of two excellent historical analyses on American power, sees a parallel to the election of 1880.
This points to Jeb’s big challenge. He might be able to attract his own version of the “Immortal 306,” corralling a sizeable portion of the GOP’s professional class, but as Grant’s experience in 1880 illustrates, that is not enough. One has to make a broader offer to the party. In 1880, Grant failed to do that. The logic of a Grant restoration made little sense that year -- at least to those who did not draw a living from politics. Hence, he never made it past those core supporters. The country, and for that matter much of the Republican party, had moved on. So Grant lost.

Jeb certainly looks to be cornering the market on the modern variety of professional Republicans, but he too will have to do more. What is the case for a Bush restoration, beyond the fact that it would make the professional GOP comfortable once again? Why should average Republican primary voters -- the insurance salesmen and truck drivers, not pollsters and policy advisors -- choose Jeb over Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, or the dozen other potential nominees? Jeb will have to make a very persuasive argument on this front. He will face tougher competition than his brother did in 2000. Indeed, 2016 could see the most competitive GOP primary since 1980.

As Grant’s experience in 1880 demonstrates, winning over the insiders and professionals is simply not enough. The Immortal 306 may stay with you the whole way, but they are never a majority of the party. Can Jeb expand beyond them? It remains to be seen.

The secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Robert McDonald, has offered up the lamest excuse for his lie that he was in special forces.
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald is admitting he erred in claiming during a conversation with a homeless veteran that he served in the U.S. military's special forces.

McDonald's claim came in a January exchange with the veteran, who said he'd served in special forces, that was captured by CBS News cameras for a story on the VA's effort to find housing for homeless veterans.

"Special forces? What years? I was in special forces!" McDonald told the man.

McDonald completed Army Ranger training, but was never assigned to a Ranger battalion, serving instead in the 82nd Airborne Division.

When The Huffington Post contacted McDonald about the claim, he acknowledged that what he'd said "is not right. I was not in special forces. What I said was wrong."

McDonald also admitted he misled the veteran in a statement issued Monday.

"While I was in Los Angeles, engaging a homeless individual to determine his Veteran status, I asked the man where he had served in the military. He responded that he had served in special forces. I incorrectly stated that I had been in special forces," McDonald said in the statement. "That was inaccurate and I apologize to anyone that was offended by my misstatement."
He said he was trying to "connect" with that veteran. McDonald did serve honorably in the 82nd Airborne in the 1970s and did graduate from Ranger School although he never served in a Ranger battalion. Why exaggerate his service? How can he serve to help veterans if he's been exposed as puffing up his resume?

Now he tells us. It is only now that David Axelrod tells us that he never thought all that well of John Edwards even as he was working on Edwards' 2004 campaign.

Body language experts analyze what John Travolta and Joe Biden have in common in how they inappropriately touch women in public.

John Hinderaker wonders why government funding of environmental research should be any less suspect than private funding. It's not as if the government doesn't have a predetermined interest in certain results being found.
This is the point I really want to make: the New York Times and other pro-government sources assume that government funding of research is lily-white, while corporate funding is inherently suspect. This is ridiculous. Put aside, for a moment, the fact that the American environmental movement is funded by Russia’s state-controlled oil company. Also the fact that Greenpeace gets money ($203 million) from the American Petroleum Foundation, with another $214 million coming from the Chamber of Commerce.

That isn’t the real scandal. The real scandal is that the overwhelming majority of money spent on climate research comes from governments. Governments, most notably ours, fund climate hysteria to the tune of billions of dollars per year. Why? Because the whole point of global warming alarmism is to persuade voters to cede more control over Western economies to government. (No one actually cares about CO2 emissions from India or China, which together vastly exceed ours.)

Governments fund climate research–but only climate research that feeds alarmism–because they are the main parties in interest in the climate debate. Governments stand to gain trillions of dollars in revenue and unprecedented power if voters in the U.S. and other Western countries can be stampeded into ceding more power to them, based on transparently bad science.

Mary Katharine Ham, co-author with Guy Benson of the upcoming book, End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun), explains how the fight between the University of Chicago and Columbia over hosting President's Obama's presidential library is "pretty much the most Obama thing ever." Apparently, the University of Chicago has included land in its proposal that the university does not own.
The green-space citizens will lose. The trauma-center advocates and everyone injured seriously on the South Side will lose. There are more important issues at stake here, like stealing property from public coffers on the orders of a strong-arming mayor who used to work for the president whose library foundation is ostentatiously waffling about its decision to come to Chicago so as to extract as much as it can from the citizens of his former city in service to his legacy.

If their goal was to accurately reflect the legacy of this president, they’ve already done it beautifully.

Chicago, you toddlin’ town.

Oops. There's a pause on Rahm Emanuel's road to a reelection coronation. He's been forced into a runoff.

Representative Steve Israel wonders how Atticus Finch would survive in modern politics.
He’d never cut it in elected office.

His defense of Tom Robinson would make him “soft on crime.”

His distaste for guns would make him a target of the gun lobby.

His use of a gun to kill a rabid dog would make him inhumane to the animal rights PACs.

His belief in considering other opinions would make him “Flip-Flop Finch.”

And his association with the shadowy Boo Radley would trigger questions about his own character. I can imagine the grainy footage of Boo, the foreboding piano music, the narrator’s voice exhorting us to “Call Atticus Finch. Because we deserve the truth!”

That's inconvenient. A multicultural expert on Islamophobia in Sweden has now joined ISIS and appeared in one of their videos encouraging other Swedes to join up.

This is classless. Rand Paul's chief political adviser has been soliciting donations from conservatives and political insiders, some connected to Rand Paul's RAND PAC, to help pay the expenses for he and his wife to adopt a child.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cruising the Web

The Obama administration is conceding itself to an almost complete surrender to Iran in nuclear negotiations.
The latest round of nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and its Western partners and Iran ended today in Geneva without agreement. But it’s clear that the Obama administration is hoping that its latest concessions will entice Iran to finally sign a document in the coming weeks that could somehow be interpreted as a foreign-policy victory for a president badly in need of one. To support this notion of an impending deal, a “senior administration official” briefed the press on the outlines of the latest proposal delivered to the Iranians. But while it seems like something Tehran ought to pounce on if it really wants to “get right with the world,” in the president’s words, the details tell us more about the administration’s desperation than about progress toward an accord that would conclusively end the Iranian nuclear threat. After several previous Western retreats that had gradually ensured that Iran could keep its nuclear infrastructure, the latest concession in the form of a phased program will eventually grant the Islamist regime the freedom to do anything it wants....

One is that like past concessions giving Iran the right to enrich uranium, albeit at low levels and then the one authorizing the regime to hold onto thousands of centrifuges and the option to keep its nuclear stockpile in a non-active state, this latest retreat isn’t the last one Iran will expect the West to make on its way to an agreement. The dynamic of the negotiations that President Obama has authorized is clear. Whenever Iran says no to a Western demand, the U.S. simply says OK and gives in. At this stage, and with no sign that the Americans will ever walk away from talks that have already been extended three times, the Iranians clearly think they can keep negotiating indefinitely until the U.S. eventually agrees to a deal that would give Iran everything it wants, seriously endangering the security of the West but also that of Israel and moderate Arab nations.

The second problem is that, as last week’s report from the International Atomic Energy Agency stated, Iran is still stonewalling the UN body’s efforts to discover the facts about their progress toward weaponization of their nuclear research. The West simply has no idea how close the Iranians have gotten to a bomb. They also have no idea how much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is unknown to them.
But, apparently, the real threat is Bibi Netanyahu giving a speech to Congress about the dangers of Iran.

Alan Dershowitz writes today about how disgusting it is for Democrats to boycott Netanyahu's speech to Congress.
Congress has every right to invite, even over the president’s strong objection, any world leader or international expert who can assist its members in formulating appropriate responses to the current deal being considered with Iran regarding its nuclear-weapons program. Indeed, it is the responsibility of every member of Congress to listen to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who probably knows more about this issue than any world leader, because it threatens the very existence of the nation state of the Jewish people.

Congress has the right to disagree with the prime minister, but the idea that some members of Congress will not give him the courtesy of listening violates protocol and basic decency to a far greater extent than anything Mr. Netanyahu is accused of doing for having accepted an invitation from Congress.

Recall that President Obama sent British Prime Minister David Cameron to lobby Congress with phone calls last month against conditionally imposing new sanctions on Iran if the deal were to fail. What the president objects to is not that Mr. Netanyahu will speak to Congress, but the content of what he intends to say. This constitutes a direct intrusion on the power of Congress and on the constitutional separation of powers.

Juan Williams wrote this weekend why Justice Clarence Thomas is "America's most influential thinker on race."
The principal point Justice Thomas has made in a variety of cases is that black people deserve to be treated as independent, competent, self-sufficient citizens. He rejects the idea that 21st-century government and the courts should continue to view blacks as victims of a history of slavery and racism.

Instead, in an era with a rising number of blacks, Hispanics, Asians and immigrants, he cheers personal responsibility as the basis of equal rights. In his concurring opinion in Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena (1995), he made the case against government set-asides for minority businesses by arguing that “racial paternalism and its unintended consequences can be as poisonous and pernicious as any other form of discrimination.” The Constitution, he said, bans discrimination by “those who wish to oppress a race or by those who have a sincere desire to help.”

In the same vein he contends that people who insist on racial diversity as a worthy principle are hiding assumptions of black inferiority. “After all, if separation itself is a harm, and if integration therefore is the only way that blacks can receive a proper education, then there must be something inferior about blacks,” he wrote in his concurring opinion in Missouri v. Jenkins (1995). “Under this theory, segregation injures blacks because blacks, when left on their own, cannot achieve. To my way of thinking that conclusion is the result of a jurisprudence based upon a theory of black inferiority.”

Justice Thomas holds that quality education should be the focus of educators for children of all races and argues there is no proof that integration necessarily improves education. Black leaders, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Thurgood Marshall, he has noted, were educated at black schools.

He also makes the case that diversity in school admissions has never been proven to raise black achievement to the level of people admitted with no special consideration. “Racial imbalance is not segregation,” he wrote in a 2007 case ending Seattle and Louisville plans to reverse racial segregation in schools, “and the mere incantation of terms like re-segregation and remediation cannot make up the difference.” Federal judges, he said, are “not social engineers” charged with creating plans to achieve racial equality.

As he wrote in his concurring opinion in Fisher, even if schools have the best intentions and justify lower standards for blacks seeking college admission in the name of reparations for past injury, “racial discrimination is never benign. . . . There can be no doubt that the University’s discrimination injures white and Asian applicants who are denied admission because of their race.”

Stephen Green ponders our nation's military leadership which was bragging to reporters about plans to launch an offensive against ISIL in the Spring.
What we have is a president counseling “strategic patience” against a foe which has gone from “the jayvee” to a regional power (and an international purveyor of religiously themed snuff films) in less than 18 months. Rather than go in whole hog and killing off ISIL immediately (which would not be terribly difficult), Obama is squandering away the last of our stature and standing.

Months of airstrikes against ISIL has led to… its further expansion. “Strategic patience” has cost the north of Iraq. “Working with our allies” means castigating the Egyptians for trying to halt ISIL from expanding further in Libya, and it means withholding targeting data from Jordan as it attempts to avenge the murder-by-immolation of one of its Air Force pilots. But don’t you worry, folks — Obama is going to retake Mosul in April. Or perhaps in August. Whenever.

But don’t be too hard on the president, he’s just spitballing here.

Yes, that’s it — he’s spitballing. There’s no concerted effort to actually accomplish anything, because other than ridiculous, idle chatter about “jobs,” Obama still doesn’t have a concept for how to wage this war. He’s tried decimation-by-drone, but that has hardly kept al Qaeda “on the run.” He’s tried an air campaign, but never really committed to it. He’s sent troops into Iraq to train what’s left of the Iraqi Army, but not to fight alongside it. He’s forged a coalition of some 60 countries, but won’t lead them and sometimes actively works (as with Egypt and Jordan) against them.

In this atmosphere, a tiny Somalia-based al Qaeda offshoot feels strong enough to make threats against the Mall of America, which our own people are treating seriously enough to advise Americans to be “particularly careful” when shopping there...

The environment we’re in? When al Qaeda struck on 9/11/2001, they did so secretly, taking advantage of holes in our immigration system and of bad practices in our domestic and foreign intelligence gathering. Today’s jihadis go on TV to scare the pants off us, just to see what happens — and, hell, who knows, maybe even actually blow up a mall. We’ve reached a point now where a jihadi operating out of war-torn Mosul may have more reason to feel safe and secure than a winter sale shopper in suburban Minneapolis. Well, at least until April. Or perhaps August. Whenever.

Robert Tracinski examines how Scott Walker's success despite not having a college degree threatens the "existing social order" of liberal elites.
The real purpose of higher education is to learn the knowledge and skills required for success later in life. So if someone has already become a success, whether or not he went to college is irrelevant. If he has achieved the end, what does it matter that he didn’t do it by way of that specific means? But for the mainstream elites, particularly those at the top level in the media, a college education is not simply a means to an end. It is itself a key attainment that confers a special social status.

There are no real class divisions in America except one: the college-educated versus the non-college educated. It helps to think of this in terms borrowed from the world of a Jane Austen novel: graduating from college is what makes you a “gentleman.” (A degree from an Ivy League school makes you part of the aristocracy.) It qualifies you to marry the right people and hold the right kind of positions. It makes you respectable. And even if you don’t achieve much in the world of work and business, even if you’re still working as a barista ten years later, you still retain that special status. It’s a modern form of “genteel poverty,” which is considered superior to the regular kind of poverty.

If you don’t have a college degree, by contrast, you are looked down upon as a vulgar commoner who is presumptuously attempting to rise above his station. Which is pretty much what they’re saying about Scott Walker. This prejudice is particularly strong when applied to anyone from the right, whose retrograde views are easily attributed to his lack of attendance at the gentleman’s finishing school that is the university.

That brings us to the heart of the matter. I have observed before that left-leaning politics has become “part of the cultural class identity of college-educated people,” a prejudice that lingers long after they have graduated. You can see how this goes the other way, too. If to be college-educated is to have left-leaning views—then to have the “correct” political values, one must be college-educated.

You can see now what is fueling the reaction on the left. If Scott Walker can run for president, he is challenging the basic cultural class identity of the mainstream left. He is more than a threat to the Democrats’ hold on political power. He is a threat to the existing social order.
All the more reason why conservatives are intrigued by Walker. And the Washington Post's story about the demise of public employee unions in Wisconsin after Walker's reforms is yet another reason for conservatives to celebrate Walker. How predictable that membership in such unions declines once members aren't coerced into joining.
The [previous] law required most public employees to pay more for health insurance and to pay more into retirement savings, resulting in an 8 to 10 percent drop in take-home pay. To help compensate for the loss, Anliker said he took an additional 10-hour-a-week job.

“Everyone’s on their own island now,” he said. “If you do a good job, everything will take care of itself. The money I’d spend on dues is way more valuable to buy groceries for my family.”

Rahm Emanuel's term as mayor of Chicago has been a disaster. It's been a humbling experience for such an arrogant man.

Phil Gramm proposes a solution for Republicans to enact if the Supreme Court rules against federal subsidies to states that didn't set up exchanges.
I believe that strategy is what I would call “the freedom option.” Every American should have the right to decide not to participate in ObamaCare: If you like ObamaCare and its subsidies, you can keep it. If you don’t, you are free to buy the health insurance that fits your needs.

The freedom option would fulfill the commitment the president made over and over again about ObamaCare: If you like your health insurance you can keep it. If Republicans crafted a simple bill that guarantees the right of individuals and businesses to opt out of ObamaCare, buy the health insurance they choose from any willing seller (with risk pools completely separate from ObamaCare), millions of Americans would rejoice and exercise this freedom. Such a proposal would be easy for Republicans to articulate and defend. And it would be very difficult for Democrats to attack.

Of all potential Republican proposals, the freedom option seems the most likely to garner the six Democratic votes in the Senate needed to break a filibuster, pass the bill and put it on the president’s desk. If the freedom option were combined with a provision that allowed federal-exchange subsidies or state actions setting up state exchanges, existing providers and recipients of subsidies would not be threatened.

The opposition would come solely from those who understand that ObamaCare is built on coercion—and that unless young, healthy Americans are forced into the program to be exploited with above-market insurance rates, the subsidies will prove unaffordable. That will be an exceedingly difficult case to make to the public.

By extinguishing coercion, the freedom option would put ObamaCare on the path to extinction. Without the ability to exploit the young and healthy, the Affordable Care Act will collapse under its own funding weight, all but guaranteeing a 2017 revision of the entire law.
There are other proposals out there for Republicans if the Court rules against the administration. Republicans need to make it very public that they have a plan to go forth at such a moment so that the administration can't predict calamities as a result of a decision adverse to them.

Seth Mandel remembers the highpoint of Christiemania back in 2012 when people were begging him to run for president. Now his time has come and gone. As Mandel writes, timing is everything and Christie missed his time and he could save himself a lot of effort, money, and humiliation by not running this time.
Another aspect of Christie’s fall from conservative grace was the quality of the field in each election. In 2012, Christie was not the first “savior” that activists and donors thought might rescue the GOP from a bevy of weak candidates. There was also, among voters on the right, a sense of urgency in seeking to prevent a second Obama term. This time around, it’s an open seat. And the class of prospective candidates is strong.

But the key point is that we knew all this years ago. It was never going to be a surprise that stronger candidates would emerge in 2016, that Christie’s reelection campaign would have to tack to the center, that governing New Jersey requires a certain amount of cooperation with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature, that Christie’s tough-guy approach was bound to find a more sympathetic target than public unions, or that style-centric flavors of the week are soon eclipsed by the next new thing.

That last one is something Barack Obama understood, to his credit. Could Obama’s career have survived losing in 2008 or passing on the race in a nod to Hillary’s “turn”? Sure. But at that point, he was nothing but a speech. And that speech would have been quite stale by the time 2016 rolled around. He wouldn’t have been the young, JFK-like smasher of the status quo. And his essential boringness, bitterness, and lack of knowledge of the issues would have been impossible to hide for another eight years.

2008 was Obama’s moment. 2012 was Christie’s. It doesn’t seem fair for Christie to be punished for his display of humility. But that’s presidential politics. Timing is everything.