Banner ad

Monday, April 27, 2015

Cruising the Web

Jonah Goldberg sure can coin a phrase.
The Clintons are like the Tudors of the Ozarks. They believe they are royalty, but they also understand that even monarchs need friends. The Clinton Foundation is the perfect vehicle for their ambition. Like the medieval Catholic Church, it blurs the lines between ideals and interests. On the one hand, it does yeoman’s work in the Church of Liberal Dogoodery, but it also provides a conduit for business interests, foreign governments, academics, activists, and journalists to gain access to the imperial court-in-waiting.

Even if Hillary hadn’t conveniently wiped her servers clean, I suspect there wouldn’t be a lot of e-mails about quid-pro-quos. Such transactions aren’t made in the language of the bazaar, but in the lingua franca of loyalty, friendship, and noblesse oblige. Yes, Clinton Inc. needs money, but the money is likely seen more as tribute than bribery, a bit of coin offered up as a sign of loyalty to the coming Ozarkian Restoration — a restoration that may just have to wait for Chelsea.
My husband finds another aspect of the Clinton Foundation scandal - it's the convergence of Bootleggers and Baptists.
George Will explains why opposition to e-cigarettes is yet another example of this powerful theory.

My modest contribution to the theory is to note that, sometimes, the Baptists and the bootleggers can be the same people. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Clinton Foundation!
For example, donors could give money to the Clinton Foundation to supposedly help Haiti and then get a multi-million dollar contract that doesn't do anything to help Haitians, but sure enriches the donor.
Fox News Senior National Correspondent John Roberts then reported on Digicel, which, according to Schweizer, was the “chief beneficiary” of an initiative to have a service that allowed money to be transferred via cell phone in Haiti pushed by the Clintons. Schweizer said, “shortly after the Clintons began reconstruction in Haiti, and began handing out contracts, sometime during that period of 2010 or 2011 he [Digicel’s owner Denis O’Brien] made a multi-million dollar contribution to the Clinton Foundation.” And that O’Brien also arranged for three “lucrative” speeches by Bill Clinton.

Schweizer then reported, “two of the speeches that Bill Clinton gives, actually, are sandwiched around Digicel being given a grant, by the taxpayers for $100,000 as part of the HMMI Award. At the same time, you have taxpayer money, $2 million being committed to the Digicel Foundation in Jamaica.”

He continued, discussing the mining contract in Haiti given to VCS Mining. “Tony Rodham [Hillary’s brother] meets the executives from VCS Mining in September of 2012 at a Clinton Global Initiative seminar. Three months later, the Haitian government grants the gold exploitation permit to VCS Mining. And literally within the year, Tony Rodham is placed on the board of VCS Mining,” despite Rodham’s lack of a background in either Haiti or mining.

The report concluded with Caracol Industrial Park, that received “more than $100 million” in US taxpayer money. According to Schweizer, “the three biggest beneficiaries [from the cheap labor the park provides] are actually three retailing companies closely tied to the Clintons. Gap, Target, and Wal-Mart.

Roberts also reported that building the park required kicking people in the area of their land and bulldozing their crops. One of the people interviewed by Roberts said the farmers were ordered to leave at gunpoint. He also spoke to a worker at the textile factory that is the park’s biggest tenant, who said he is paid about $5 a day.

The report concluded that there are only about 5,000 jobs at Caracol, not the 65,000 promised by the US State Department.

The Democrats seem poised to put their hopes in proven losers in the Senate races for 2016.
Pop quiz: What do Russ Feingold, Kay Hagan, Michelle Nunn, Mark Begich, Ted Strickland and Joe Sestak have in common?

If you answered that all were highly touted Democratic senatorial or gubernatorial candidates who lost in 2010 or 2014, you would be correct. Feingold, Hagan and Begich lost their Senate seats to Republicans; Nunn and Sestak lost open-seat Senate contests in Georgia and Pennsylvania in 2014 and 2010, respectively; Strickland was unseated as Ohio governor by John Kasich in 2010.

But you would also be correct right if you answered that are all either plausible or presumptive Democratic nominees for 2016 Senate races. Both parties are deep in the candidate recruitment process, and according to AP’s Erica Werner, these six politicians – whom she refers to as “proven losers” – top the Democratic recruiting list in potentially critical Senate contests.

Allysia Finley reports on one aspect of the California drought that hasn't gotten as much attention from the MSM or Obama's rant at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
In California, it takes about 1.1 gallons of water to grow an almond; 1.28 gallons to flush a toilet; and 34 gallons to produce an ounce of marijuana. But how many gallons are needed to save a three-inch delta smelt, the cause célèbre of environmentalists and bête noire of parched farmers?

To protect smelt from water pumps, government regulators have flushed 1.4 trillion gallons of water into the San Francisco Bay since 2008. That would have been enough to sustain 6.4 million Californians for six years. Yet a survey of young adult smelt in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta last fall yielded just eight fish, the lowest level since 1967. An annual spring survey by state biologists turned up six smelt in March and one this month. In 2014 the fall-spring counts were 88 and 36. While the surveys are a sampling and not intended to suggest the full population, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service warns that “the delta smelt is now in danger of extinction.”

The agency acknowledges that its “existing regulatory mechanisms have not proven adequate” to arrest the fish’s decline since its listing under the Endangered Species Act in 1993 and that “we are unable to determine with certainty which threats or combinations of threats are directly responsible.”

Herein is a parable of imperious regulators who subordinate science to a green political agenda. While imposing huge societal costs, government policies have failed to achieve their stated environmental purpose....

Even if the delta smelt were eliminated from the delta forever, the federal government would continue to restrict pumping to protect other fish: the longfin smelt, steelhead and Chinook winter-run salmon. And green groups would continue petitioning the government to expand its list of endangered species. Parched Californians may soon wonder when it’s their turn for such concern.

Betsy McCaughey revisits Hillary Clinton's Senate confirmation hearings and notes that Senators Richard Lugar and David Vitter questioned her closely about the Clinton Foundation's acceptance of foreign donations. And Hillary was adamant that she wasn't going to change the foundation's policies and her agreement with President Obama was enough.
Lugar asked if the agreement could be amended to disclose the timing of gifts, the amounts and future pledges, not just donors’ names. Hillary flatly refused: “The agreement already goes far beyond what any spouse of a Cabinet official has ever done.”
Shockingly, she made it clear that if any concerns were raised by the Obama White House or the State Department about foundation fundraising, the foundation would be the arbiter of what’s “appropriate,” not the US government.

“In many, if not most cases, it is likely that the foundation or President [Bill] Clinton will not pursue an opportunity that presents a conflict.”

Translation: It will depend on the amount of money being dangled in front of the ex-president. If the amount is large enough, national interest be damned.

Vitter took a turn at questioning Hillary, raising concerns about foreign individuals and companies — not just countries — donating to the foundation. He cited one foundation donor who was tangled in a web of connections with Iranian terrorism. One partner of the donor had been named by the Treasury two days earlier as “a terrorist entity” and another partner, Bank Melli, “had long been thought to be a procurement front for the Iranian nuclear program.”

Clinton regurgitated the stock answer: “Well again, this is an agreement that has been worked out between all of the parties, and the fact is that the concerns that were raised in the discussions between the foundation and the president-elect’s team were thoroughly discussed.”
So I guess we can say that she warned us.

Michael Barone notes that bipartisanship is breaking out all over.
Exhibit A is the Corker-Cardin legislation, passed unanimously in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, providing for limited congressional review of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear weapons program. Exhibit B is the legislation combating human trafficking, passed unanimously by the Senate last Wednesday. Exhibit C is the elimination of the annual "doc fix," engineered by Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi....

Bipartisanship is busting out on other issues too. Agreement was reached on extension of the children's health insurance program, first passed as part of a bipartisan agreement between Democrat Bill Clinton and Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., reached agreement in the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee on reauthorization of the education bill passed in 2001 as No Child Left Behind. Murray showed similar skill in reaching a bipartisan budget agreement with Paul Ryan, then House Budget Chairman, in 2013.

Similarly, legislation on energy efficiency standards is moving forward after agreement by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. That's not earthshaking issue, but it's one of those issues on which Congress needs to keep laws up to date in light of experience and technological developments.
Add in bipartisan support for giving the president trade promotion authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Amazing how this can happen when Harry Reid lost his power to control the agenda in the Senate. Now the bipartisan ball is in President Obama's court. Yet he doesn't seem all that interested in it.
Which brings to mind the one person who is largely missing from the bursting out of bipartisanship: President Obama. All these recent bipartisan agreements have been reached with little or no involvement by him. They were forged by knowledgeable members of Congress skillful at bridging differences with colleagues across the aisle.

As Senate majority leader, Harry Reid blocked bipartisan measures, and Obama has shown neither the inclination nor the capacity to advance them. But with McConnell opening up the Senate floor for votes and amendments, agreements are now possible.
And I would bet that a lot of Senate Democrats are content to have McConnell run things if it means that they can contribute more to legislation and have more input into the sorts of bipartisan legislation that Reid blocked from coming to a vote.

Amy Davidson of the New Yorker puts forth five questions arising from the story about the Clintons and uranium company. Setting aside whether we'll ever find any evidence of an explicit quid pro quo, what about the actual policy choice of allowing so much of American uranium to go to Russia?
4. Putting aside who got rich, did this series of uranium deals damage or compromise national security? That this is even a question is one reason the story is, so to speak, radioactive. According to the Times, “the sale gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States.” Pravda has said that it makes Russia stronger. What that means, practically, is something that will probably be debated as the election proceeds.
Is that what she meant by the Russian reset?

Hillary Clinton's supporters are trying to push the argument now that she's not being phony when she rants about income inequality because she's always been a left-wing populist. Peter Beinart agrees that that was the end of the ideological spectrum that she inhabited when she first came on the national scene. However, her attempts to move to the center since then are coming back to haunt her.
ut there’s an irony here. If Hillary’s advisors are angry that the press doesn’t describe her as “left-wing” anymore, they themselves are partly to blame. That’s because they, and she, have spent much of the last two decades trying to overcome exactly that reputation. In 1993, when journalists suggested that her college thesis on Saul Alinsky proved she was a big government liberal, Hillary insisted that it proved the opposite. “Even at that early stage I was against all these people who come up with these big government programs that were more supportive of bureaucracies than actually helpful to people,” she told The Washington Post. “You know, I’ve been on this kick for 25 years.” In a 1993 interview with The New York Times, she praised an article by Daniel Patrick Moynihan called “Defining Deviancy Down,” in which the scholar-senator argued that liberals had become too tolerant of anti-social behavior among the poor. Hillary made Mark Penn, among the most centrist of her husband’s political consultants, the architect of her 2000 Senate run and 2008 presidential campaign. And in 2005, she affiliated herself with the Democratic Leadership Council, the New Democratic group with whose views many pundits assumed she disagreed.

So is Hillary a left-winger who, having masked that reality during her days as First Lady and in the Senate, is now coming clean? It’s more complex than that. Terms like “left” and “right” lump together a variety of subjects. To the extent Hillary has an ideological core, it’s economically progressive, culturally moderate and hawkish on foreign policy. She’s just stressed different aspects of this political identity at different times.

In the 1990s, for instance, while working behind the scenes, often unsuccessfully, to push Clinton administration economic policy to the left, Hillary tried to publicly overcome her lefty reputation by insisting that she wasn’t a cultural radical. In 1994, she said she was “not comfortable” with the distribution of condoms in schools and in her 1996 book, It Takes a Village, she promoted abstinence and criticized easy divorce.

That wasn’t dishonest. As one Clinton administration aide put it, “She’s a very judgmental Methodist from the Midwest.” But today, with America’s cultural debate having moved left, Hillary is downplaying her judgmental, moral side and emphasizing her progressive economic views instead.

Similarly, after 9/11, Hillary trumpeted her hawkish foreign views. She not only voted to invade Iraq in 2002; the following year, she called for expanding the US military. That wasn’t dishonest either. During the 1990s, Hillary had been strongly influenced by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who championed military intervention in the Balkans. And in October 2000, almost a year before 9/11, she had given a speech at the Council Foreign Relations denouncing the refrain, then-associated with Albright’s nemesis, Colin Powell and now-associated with Barack Obama:
That we should intervene only when we face splendid little wars that we surely can win, preferably by overwhelming force in a relatively short period of time. To those who believe we should become involved only if it is easy to do, I think we have to say that America has never and should never shy away from the hard task if it is the right one.
But now, with Democratic voters less sympathetic to hawkish views, Hillary doesn’t talk that way either.
As always with the Clintons, their ideology seems to shift as light shines on them from different angles.

So NBC News has found out that Brian Williams exaggerated his personal involvement in reporting on crises 11 times. So what is the tipping point at which someone is no longer a reliable news reader?

Joe Biden gave a speech about the evils of campus sexual assault. Ashe Schow has a good question for him and other liberals. If sexual assault is so terrible and should rightly be criminalized, why aren't college campuses treating it like a crime?
Sexual assault – at least on college campuses – is now being treated as a disciplinary matter, just like plagiarism (something Biden has experience with).

Biden also said that campus rapists shouldn't just be facing expulsion, but "should go to jail." Absolutely. The problem is that if expulsion and jail are possibilities, as they are with crimes, then both accusers and accused should have due process rights. But that might cut down on the number of students suspended or expelled, as evidence and the presumption of innocence are less valued in disciplinary hearings than accusations are.

Stephen A. Smith beclowns himself once more by calling Tom Brady a racist for not going to meet Obama last week along with most of the rest of the New England Patriots.
For the record, Tom was attending a party for his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Pretty sure they weren’t going to change the date just to fit Barry’s schedule, Stephen.

ALSO, why aren’t Brandon Browner or Vince Wilfork — both black males were important members of last year’s Super Bowl championship squad — racist for not going to the Thursday’s events?

John Hinderaker presents a little science and logic to respond to President Obama's shtick at the Washington Correspondent's Dinner. And Byron York ponders what the whole Luther the Anger Translator really revealed.
Of course, it was all comedy — don't the critics understand it's just a joke? — but Obama gave his imprimatur to the Luther interpretation of the Obama presidency. Criticism directed at Obama about seemingly non-racial issues, from Ebola to the BP oil spill to climate change, is more severe for Obama than it would be for a white president because it is rooted in racial animus. That animus showed its face in more obvious ways in the birther and Obama-is-a-Muslim memes, but it's always there. Now, in his second term, Obama is finally free to air his resentments.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Cruising the Web

In my A.P. Government and Politics class, one of the themes that comes up throughout the year is whether political parties are becoming weaker, particularly in their ability to control who the nominee of the party will be whether for president or other down-ballot positions. If parties still decided things in back room deals, the Democrats would have chosen Hillary in 2008 without those pesky primaries. And disastrous candidates like Todd Akin, Sharron Angle, or Christine O'Donnell would never have seen the light of day. So think of the Democratic Party today. They have their desired candidate - Hillary Clinton. There are no other candidates of note to cloud things and steal the limelight from the Chosen One. Things seemed to be proceeding apace until Hillary ran into the weaknesses of Hillary's lack of political skills. And now the scandals are piling up.

The real bombshell emerges from Peter Schweizer's upcoming book, Clinton Cash. In a clever marketing decision, the author has paired up with not only Fox News, but the Washington Post and New York Times. So when stories like yesterday's New York Times story about how a Canadian fat cat gave millions to the Clinton Foundation just as his company arranged a deal while Clinton was secretary of state to sell uranium from Wyoming mines to Russia and that a Russian investment bank behind the deal gave Bill Clint a half million dollars for one speech in Moscow.
At the heart of the tale are several men, leaders of the Canadian mining industry, who have been major donors to the charitable endeavors of former President Bill Clinton and his family. Members of that group built, financed and eventually sold off to the Russians a company that would become known as Uranium One.

Beyond mines in Kazakhstan that are among the most lucrative in the world, the sale gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States. Since uranium is considered a strategic asset, with implications for national security, the deal had to be approved by a committee composed of representatives from a number of United States government agencies. Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by Mr. Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.

And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.

At the time, both Rosatom and the United States government made promises intended to ease concerns about ceding control of the company’s assets to the Russians. Those promises have been repeatedly broken, records show.
The Clinton camp can only make this weak denial.
In a statement, Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign, said no one “has ever produced a shred of evidence supporting the theory that Hillary Clinton ever took action as secretary of state to support the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation.” He emphasized that multiple United States agencies, as well as the Canadian government, had signed off on the deal and that, in general, such matters were handled at a level below the secretary. “To suggest the State Department, under then-Secretary Clinton, exerted undue influence in the U.S. government’s review of the sale of Uranium One is utterly baseless,” he added.
Well, of course there is no evidence. People of the Clintons' experience don't spell out their quid pro quo deals in documents or in front of cameras. And hey, her emails have been erased so isn't that just sooo inconvenient?

The fact that the Clintons would have those sorts of associations and Bill would jetting off to rake in the dough giving a speech in Kazakhstan betrays the arrogance that has characterized the whole Clinton experience.
The path to a Russian acquisition of American uranium deposits began in 2005 in Kazakhstan, where the Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra orchestrated his first big uranium deal, with Mr. Clinton at his side.

The two men had flown aboard Mr. Giustra’s private jet to Almaty, Kazakhstan, where they dined with the authoritarian president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev. Mr. Clinton handed the Kazakh president a propaganda coup when he expressed support for Mr. Nazarbayev’s bid to head an international elections monitoring group, undercutting American foreign policy and criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, his wife, then a senator.
The Clintons either assumed that this sort of story would never see the light of day or that the MSM would ignore it. Such is their arrogant approach to politics. Perhaps the American people will not care about the appearance of corruption and consider it irrelevant to the joys of electing a president lacking a Y chromosome. I sure hope not.

But I wonder if the Democratic Party's leaders are so blithe. I wonder if they're wishing that they still had the ability to disappear into a smoke-filled room and come out with someone other than Hillary as their nominee.

You can watch the short summary of the story in the NYT from this Fox Report.

As the WSJ writes, why would anyone expect any other sort of behavior from Bill and Hillary?
We’re not the first to make the comparison, but Bill and Hillary Clinton’s adventures in the uranium trade recall nothing as much as Tammany Hall’s concept of “honest graft.” Except maybe their never-ending use of power and status for personal and political gain requires a new special terminology. Dishonest graft?

The New York Times reported Thursday on the foreign cash that flowed into the Clinton Foundation between 2009 and 2013 as subsidiaries of the Russian state nuclear energy agency Rosatom acquired control of a Canada-based mining company called Uranium One. The story features the familiar Clinton touches: lucrative Kazakh mining concessions for the tycoon Frank Giustra, with Bill along as a character reference; a half-million-dollar-a-pop speech by the former President in Moscow for a Kremlin-linked bank; $2.35 million in secret donations from one family foundation to another. Our Kim Strassel has more nearby.

All the while, Mrs. Clinton was serving in her capacity as Secretary of State on the U.S. Cabinet committee that screens foreign investment for national-security risks. The group approved the deal, despite critics who warned it would give the Russian government control over the world’s nuclear fuel—the same material Vladimir Putin is now selling to Iran. Oh, and don’t forget this was also amid the famous “reset” of relations with Mr. Putin.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign press secretary, Brian Fallon, distributed talking points claiming this was all merely a coincidence and pointed to a right-wing plot led by author Peter Schweizer. Mr. Fallon added that the allegations lack “a shred of evidence,” which is convenient given that Mrs. Clinton might have destroyed some evidence by wiping her private email server.

The media have exposed a wealth of new facts, but the stories are as notable for how familiar this all seems. Can anyone honestly claim to be surprised?

This is how the Clintons conduct their politics and family business, to the extent these are separate enterprises. The Clinton Foundation is a nominal philanthropy that was really created as a vast fund-raising operation to promote Bill’s post-Presidential career and Hillary’s pre-Presidential one.

Why on Earth would they cash the checks? They had to know these donations would create at least the appearance of corruption or a conflict of interest for the nation’s chief diplomat. The Justice Department recently indicted New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez merely for lobbying to change a Medicare rule that Medicare refused to change. The Clintons cashed the checks because they think they can write their own rules and get away with it.

Kimberly Strassel adds in,
Say this about Bill and Hillary Clinton: They are predictable. Some politicians dare to change, even to evolve, but not the former first couple. In these uncertain political times, Team Clinton’s lack of ethics—and its stock response when caught—is our one constant.

The details change, of course. In 1978 it was lucrative cattle futures; in 2014 it was lucrative speeches. In the 1990s it was missing Whitewater and Rose Law firm records; today it is missing emails. In 2000 it was cash for pardons; now it’s cash for Russian uranium mines. In Little Rock, it was Bill’s presidential campaign vehicle; in New York, it’s Hillary’s—and now known as the Clinton Foundation. Details.

The standard operating procedure never changes, however. It is as if the Clintons have—filed within easy reach on a shelf—a book titled “Clinton Scandals for Dummies.”

Chapter One: “Pick Your Spots.” The Clintons flourish in that hazy interface between legal and lawless. Their dealings always stink, but are rarely blatantly or provably (or traceably) corrupt. Consider this week’s news. Yes, tons of donor cash flowed to the Clinton Foundation at the same time Mrs. Clinton’s State Department was greenlighting deals helping those donors. But prove there was a quid pro quo! The Clintons dare you.

They know you likely can’t, since Chapter Two is “Limit Those Paper Trails.” Remember those “misplaced” 1990s documents, but also reread the 2000 report from the House Committee on Government Reform titled “The Failure to Produce [Clinton] White House E-Mails: Threats, Obstruction and Unanswered Questions.” The Clintons learned it took effort to keep documents secret. These days, they make sure there are no documents at all. (Mrs. Clinton, which emails would you like us to delete? Just search for key words “yoga,” “wedding” and “uranium.”)

Chapter Three: “Remember, the Press Has ADD.” Pixar’s “Up” features Dug, a cute dog with a serious attention problem (“squirrel!!!”). This is how the Clintons view the media. Pettable. Unfocused. When caught, the Clinton communications team will issue lofty dismissals—calling charges baseless or old news—and wait for the press to believe it. If it doesn’t, Team Clinton will hold one press conference—a la Mrs. Clinton’s email event—and wait for the media to call the case closed. If it doesn’t, they will change the subject (Hillary is running for president! Squirrel!!!) and wait for the press to lose interest. It often does.

Still, if all else fails, there is Chapter Four: “Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy”—or VRWC. Mrs. Clinton’s conspiracy shtick is today a bit of a joke, but it doesn’t make it any less effective. It works to cast any serious investigation of Clinton behavior as a partisan witch hunt, and therefore illegitimate. And it does work. Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is going to jail on dubious claims of trading favors for money. Could an enterprising prosecutor cobble together a similar case against Hillary? Undoubtedly. But no one will for fear of being accused of doing a Republican hit job on the Clintons.

The rest of the book falls under the heading “Stockholm Syndrome,” and consists of tactics for convincing fellow Democrats that the Clinton machine is inevitable.

John Podhoretz writes that the allegations in Schweizer's book will test the health of the Democratic Party.
Hillary Clinton’s ability so far to clear the field—with the exception of a former governor of Maryland who ended office wildly unpopular in his own state—is a mark of the party’s sclerosis. Even when George H.W. Bush was running as Ronald Reagan’s successor in 1987-88, there were six other serious contenders, five of them figures of note in the party: Senate GOP leader and one-time vice-presidential candidate Bob Dole, the wildly popular Rep. Jack Kemp, former secretary of state Alexander Haig, former Delaware Gov. Pete du Pont, and Pat Robertson. If Bush had stumbled badly, or if scandal had surrounded him, Dole in particular was right there to pick up the slack.

That was the mark of a party that had been strengthened rather than weakened by its years in the White House.

The biggest polling news today—from a Quinnipiac survey completed before the blockbuster story—indicates that 61 percent of self-described independents find Hillary Clinton “untrustworthy.” That is a dangerous number for her and her party. If everything that has happened and is happening and will probably continue to happen to Hillary Clinton does not surface a challenger or two more threatening to her than Martin O’Malley, the party she will lead in 2016 will be more the wounded animal than the national force.

Josh Kraushaar writes in the National Journal that the Democrats should now be regretting that they went all in on Hillary Clinton.
The story goes to the heart of several serious, growing vulnerabilities that Clinton will be facing, sooner or later. First, the perception of foreign entities paying the Clinton Foundation and later getting favorable treatment from the State Department raises the spectre of foreign governments buying access at the highest levels of the U.S. government—a politically potent allegation should any connection be proven. The fact that Clinton reportedly concealed the company's donations to the foundation from the Obama administration only raises the reason for suspicion.

Second, it's an unwelcome reminder that as secretary of State, Clinton viewed Russia as a trustworthy partner and didn't see any national security consequences as a result of the transaction. Republicans will be raising questions about her foreign policy judgment on numerous hot spots that are currently deteriorating, including Libya, Ukraine, and Iran.

Third, it raises the question of what other actions she took as secretary of State that would have the consequence of enriching her family through the Clinton Foundation. Former President Bill Clinton made a half-million speaking to a Russian investment bank promoting the mining company's stock shortly after the corporate takeover. That badly threatens to undermine her positioning as a populist fighter for the "everyday" American—an image her campaign has been assiduously pushing with her low-key launch.

Finally, her evasive answers in dealing with the controversy, refusing to address the specifics of the reporting and using her campaign team to attack the messenger(s) shows both how serious the allegations are, and how unprepared she is for the scrutiny. Polling has already shown her standing taking a serious nosedive, as more questions are raised about her conduct in office.
As Kraushaar points out, Hillary hasn't talked much about her record as Secretary of State.
But the list of foreign policy controversies she's connected with is continuing to grow. She championed the airstrikes in Libya that toppled the Qaddafi government. The country has now become an ungovernable safe haven where terrorist groups are thriving. She failed to identify the growing geostrategic threat Russia posed, famously giving a "reset button" to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Republicans just announced that their report about the Benghazi attacks will be released in 2016, right in the middle of the presidential campaign. Fairly or unfairly, Republicans will be connecting the growing turmoil in the Middle East to foreign policy under her watch. Her tenure at State, which allowed her to become one of the most popular politicians in America, is now seen favorably by only 50 percent of voters.
Of course, she hasn't said much of anything since she declared her candidacy. She wants to be a champion of the people. Well, sending her husband out as the bag man to engineer a deal selling American uranium to Russia is not quite the actions of the people's champion.

And as the Democrats attack Schweizer as a beneficiary of Koch money and part of the vast right-wing conspiracy, Schweizer has announced that his next book will be investigating Jeb Bush.
That landed Schweizer squarely in the crosshairs of the Clinton team and allied liberal groups, which have launched a campaign to discredit Schweizer as “disreputable” and blinded by partisan animosity. Anyone familiar with Schweizer’s work knows better: he wrote a well-regarded book about the Bush dynasty and another, detailing insider trading in Congress, that led to a new law, the bipartisan STOCK Act of 2012, which aims to curb these abuses.

That hasn’t quieted the left-wing clamor that Schweizer is simply out to get Hillary Clinton. But maybe this will: Schweizer is working on a similar investigation of Jeb Bush’s finances that he expects to publish this summer.

“What we’re doing is a drill-down investigation of Jeb’s finances similar to what we did with the Clintons in terms of looking at financial dealings, cronyism, who he’s been involved with,” Schweizer told me on Wednesday. “We’ve found some interesting things.”
Schweizer says he and a team of researchers have been poring over Bush’s financial life for about four months. Among other things, they’re scrutinizing various Florida land deals, an airport deal while Bush was governor that involved state funds, and Chinese investors in Bush’s private equity funds (something I wrote about for Bloomberg last year).

As he did with the Clinton book, Schweizer is hoping to partner with media organizations interested in reporting on and advancing his examination of Bush’s finances—an arrangement Schweizer feels has been mischaracterized in the media.  “With the Clinton book, we didn’t just give it to reporters with the expectation that they would report on the book,” he says. “We shared it early on with investigative reporters at ABC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post because we wanted that additional scrutiny [of the book’s subjects]. And we want similar scrutiny for this project.”
Schweizer also wanted to rebut the implication that he may have been paid by news organizations for an early look at the book. “There was absolutely no money that changed hands,” he says. “It’s ridiculous to suggest so.

On May 5, Clinton Cash will finally hit bookstore shelves and people will be able to form their own judgments. By then, Schweizer will no doubt be very busy, fending off attacks not just from Clintonites, but from Bushies, too.
Well, wouldn't it be ironic if the same writer sunk the candidacies of both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. Why would Republicans, with all the choices out there in front of them decide to go with Jeb, if he's loaded down with some financial scandals and various other allegations of crony capitalism? Joshua Greene's story back in December detailed some of the problems for Jeb stemming from his background working in private equity. Haven't we tried that already? Do Republicans want to have a nominee whose background will force them to resurrect both the arguments used to defend his brother and Mitt Romney? And would defending Jeb lessen the power of attacks on Hillary? The need for a fresh face seems more and more paramount for Republicans.

Charles Krauthammer looks over what has been happening in the Middle East in the past few months and detects the strategic approach that the Obama administration has taken to the region.
This is the new Middle East. Its strategic reality is clear to everyone: Iran rising, assisted, astonishingly, by the United States.

Obama’s initial Middle East strategy was simply withdrawal. He would enter history as the ultimate peace president, ushering in a new era in which “the tide of war is receding.” The subsequent vacuum having been filled, unfortunately and predictably, by various enemies, adversaries and irredeemables, Obama lighted upon a new idea: We don’t just withdraw, we hand the baton. To Iran.

Obama may not even be aware that he is recapitulating the Nixon doctrine, but with a fatal twist. Nixon’s main focus was to get the Vietnamese to take over that war from us. But the doctrine evolved and was generalized to deputize various smaller powers to police their regions on our behalf. In the Persian Gulf, our principal proxy was Iran.

The only problem with Obama’s version of the Nixon doctrine is that Iran today is not the Westernized, secular, pro-American regional power it was under the shah. It is radical, clerical, rabidly anti-imperialist, deeply anti-Western. The regime’s ultimate — and openly declared — strategic purpose is to drive the American infidel from the region and either subordinate or annihilate America’s Middle Eastern allies.

Which has those allies in an understandable panic. Can an American president really believe that appeasing Iran — territorially, economically, militarily and by conferring nuclear legitimacy — will moderate its behavior and ideology, adherence to which despite all odds is now yielding undreamed of success?

Iran went into the nuclear negotiations heavily sanctioned, isolated internationally, hemorrhaging financially — and this was even before the collapse of oil prices. The premise of these talks was that the mullahs would have six months to give up their nuclear program or they would be additionally squeezed with even more devastating sanctions.

After 17 months of serial American concessions, the Iranian economy is growing again, its forces and proxies are on the march through the Arab Middle East and it is on the verge of having its nuclear defiance rewarded and legitimized.

The Saudis are resisting being broken to Iranian dominance. They have resumed their war in Yemen. They are resisting being forced into Yemen negotiations with Iran, a country that is, in the words of the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., “part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

Obama appears undeterred. He’s determined to make his Iran-first inverted Nixon doctrine a reality. Our friends in the region, who for decades have relied on us to protect them from Iran, look on astonished.
From that 2008 debate when Obama proudly told the American people that he would be happy to negotiate with Iran and North Korea, we've come to this. He didn't quite tell us how he would facilitate a soon-to-be nuclear Iran becoming the major actor in the Middle East. But that is what he's done.

Meanwhile, Americans are trapped in Yemen as war is raging throughout that country and the State Department doesn't seem to care.
The announced end of Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign in Yemen may provide a window for thousands of U.S. citizens to leave the war-torn nation. Yet the State Department shows no sign it will begin rescuing the thousands of Yemeni-Americans there, drawing ire from the Arab-American community.

For weeks, the Obama administration has maintained that using U.S. government resources to evacuate its citizens in the middle of the Yemeni crisis would be too dangerous for the U.S. personnel sent to help as well as for the citizens themselves. Without any embassy or military presence inside Yemen, U.S. assistance for the thousands of Americans seeking to leave has amounted to giving them sporadic information, wishing them good luck, and dealing with them if and when they reach another shore, usually Djibouti in Africa....

Several other governments have arranged evacuations for their citizens, and even aided Americans trying to flee Yemen. India alone rescued 4,500 people from Yemen this month, including some Americans. Ayoub said that the Russian Federation sent out a notice to U.S. citizens in Yemen this week offering to help evacuate them on Russian ships. Desperate Yemeni-Americans are taking any offer they can get to leave.

The number of Americans still in Yemen is unclear. A 2010 embassy inspection report placed the number of American citizens in the country at 55,000, but Ayoub said the State Department now believes there are between 4,000 and 5,000 remaining. It would not be new ground for the department, which led an evacuation of 15,000 U.S. citizens from Lebanon in the summer of 2006, with Pentagon assistance.

But the State Department won’t engage Arab-American leaders on the issue, and groups including the ADC, the Council on American Islamic Relations and Asian Americans Advancing Justice have taken matters into their own hands. They filed two lawsuits against the State and Defense Departments to compel them to get Americans out of Yemen.
Think of that - having to file lawsuits to get the State Department to protect U.S. citizens in a war zone.
Yet, the tone from White House and State Department spokespeople when asked by reporters about the lack of action has often seemed dismissive; the official response has been to point to previous State Department travel warnings about the dangers in Yemen, which seems like blaming the U.S. citizens for being there in the first place. Many of these people are Yemeni immigrants or the children of immigrants who returned to see their families.

“We are giving Americans opportunities -- information about opportunities, I should say -- to use other methods of leaving Yemen, and that’s why we have been very clear since the mid-1990s that people should not travel to Yemen,” State Department acting spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters Monday.

A reporter pointed out that one of the State Department’s absolute highest responsibilities is protecting U.S. citizens abroad.

“Absolutely,” Harf responded. “That’s why we have been telling them not to go to Yemen.”
How helpful that is. I guess it's their own fault for believing the Obama administration which had touted Yemen as a success story in their war on terror.

Ah, the IRS. Just what we'd expect.
If you tried to contact the IRS with a question about your taxes this year, chances are you didn't get a response. The IRS estimated that it would only answer 17 million of the 49 million calls received this filing season. Taxpayers lucky enough to have the IRS answer their calls waited an average of 34.4 minutes for assistance--nearly double the wait time last year (18.7 minutes).

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has blamed the IRS's "abysmal" customer service on congressional budget cuts--funding is down $1.2 billion from its 2010 peak--but a new congressional report points the finger back at the IRS. While congressional funding for the IRS remained flat from 2014 to 2015, the IRS diverted $134 million away from customer service to other activities.

In addition to the $11 billion appropriated by Congress, the IRS takes in more than $400 million in user fees and may allocate that money as it sees fit. In 2014, the IRS allocated $183 million in user fees to its customer service budget, but allocated just $49 million in 2015--a 76 percent cut.

Commissioner Koskinen will appear before the House Ways and Means Committee this morning, one week after the federal tax filing deadline, and he can expect to be asked why the IRS cut its own customer service budget and continues to spend money on other questionable activities.

The report notes that Koskinen reinstated bonuses weeks after his appointment, has allowed IRS employees to spend roughly 500,000 work hours on union activities, and failed to collect delinquent taxes owed by federal employees. The tax agency has also been strained by Obamacare. According to the report, the IRS has spent "over $1.2 billion on the President’s health care law to date, with a planned expenditure this year of an additional $500 million."

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Cruising the Web

You might not have noticed it, but recently Congress has worked together in a bipartisan fashion to accomplish some things.
Suddenly, Congress is actually doing things. Making compromises. Passing legislation. Confirming people.

In short order, Congress has passed the "doc fix" to close a Medicare payment loophole that had been kicked down the road dozens of times, moved toward giving President Obama fast-track negotiation authority on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, scheduled a vote on the long-delayed confirmation of Loretta Lynch as attorney general and, with it, struck a deal on legislation aimed at human trafficking.
So what made the difference? Harry Reid is no longer in control. And Mitch McConnell restored regular order. And even some Democrats are relieved to actually do their jobs. Bills are moving through committees and lawmakers can contribute during that process instead of having Pelosi or Reid write the bills without any input from their own people. Chris Cillizza writes,
My sense is that it's a combination of these factors. Yes, it is true that McConnell has opened up the amendment process in the Senate, allowing more voices to be heard and members -- Republicans and Democrats -- to feel as though they are a bigger part of the process. But, it is also true that McConnell (and House Speaker John Boehner) believe deeply in the need to demonstrate a capacity to govern as opposed to simply stand in opposition in advance of the 2016 election. And, Obama is, without question, in search of major and minor second-term accomplishments.

Add it up and you get the rarest of things: a genuine interest on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue to work together. As Moore notes, this kumbaya moment isn't likely to extend to pricklier fights on such issues as immigration or health care. Those bigger-ticket battles will continue to be largely litigated at the legal level and on the 2016 campaign trail.

But that's for another day. Today we celebrate a political process that is moving. Finally.

Daniel Henninger writes that the Democrats "own Iran."
The Democrats now own Iran—lock, stock and smoking centrifuges.

It isn’t just the Senate compromise on the Corker bill that made the Iran nuclear deal the party’s exclusive political property. The Democrats own Iran’s entire penetration in the region—Yemen, the Gulf of Aden, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon—pretty much anywhere Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants to take them.

Senate Democrats, attempting a magical illusion on American voters, say the Iran nuclear threat and the Iran terror threat are separate realities.

Before the Senate’s recent “compromise” vote on Sen. Bob Corker’s Iran review bill, Delaware Sen. Chris Coons and other Senate Democrats, at the White House’s insistence, said while they abhorred Iran’s support for terrorism, it had to be separated from the historic arms deal....

Until recently, the Democrats at least could argue that because Mr. Obama ended George Bush’s war in Iraq, he immunized them from direct political blame for the region’s troubles. That the decision to reduce the U.S.’s postwar presence in Iraq to zero allowed Islamic State to metastasize unimpeded was a morass they could push off into the ethers of the “hopeless” Middle East.

Except that the Democratic president erected a steel cable connecting himself directly to Tehran. This being Barack Obama, history had ordained that only he could take on Planet Iran and persuade its population of fanatic Shiite ayatollahs to change their worldview. In the years since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini presided over the American hostages, taking down a U.S. presidency, Iran’s Islamic Republic has had just one other Supreme Leader—today’s Ayatollah Khamenei, the man at the other end of the steel cable tethered to the White House.

It is now generally understood that completing a major nuclear-arms agreement with Iran was an obsession of Mr. Obama’s from early in his presidency. Up to a point, the Democrats’ normal instincts for self-preservation prevailed. Sufficient numbers of Senate Democrats—Mr. Coons, Bob Menendez, Ben Cardin, Tim Kaine, Chuck Schumer—raised enough questions of substance about the deal to credibly put space between them and a president assembling a major arms-control agreement out of his own head. The risks for Democrats were obvious.

But starting about two weeks ago, the Democrats’ Iran hedge collapsed. The compromise on the Corker bill virtually ensures that whatever agreement John Kerry outputs in Switzerland—a deal that increasingly looks built on sand—will pass unimpeded through the Senate. It looks a lot like ObamaCare, with congressional Democrats once again doing a pass-it-to-find-out-what’s-in-it for another Obama legacy.

But Saudi Arabia isn’t the American Hospital Association, and Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani isn’t Nancy Pelosi. The religious and military forces in motion in the Middle East now are powerful and volatile. Vladimir Putin’s decision amid all this to ship the sophisticated S-300 air-defense system to Iran was a thunderclap event. The ever-omniscient president dismissed it as no surprise.

We assume Barack Obama and John Kerry are telling Senate Democrats that if something blows, they’ll handle it, the way Mr. Obama could command Kathleen Sebelius and HHS to “fix” the ObamaCare glitches. The Iran framework’s fix is the assurance of “snapback” sanctions, a word with no meaning whatsoever.

For those who believe that government bureaucrats are somehow more honest and moral than those in the private sector, pay more attention to the entire VA scandal. Every few days we hear another horror story such as this.
In a voice choked with emotion, Rustyann Brown told lawmakers Wednesday how the Department of Veterans Affairs routinely turned its back on veterans and their families, even in death.

Mrs. Brown, a former employee in the VA’s Oakland office, was assigned one day in 2012 to a special team given the job of reviewing more than 13,000 veterans’ claims dating back to the mid-1990s that had never been addressed. As they sorted through the mounds of papers, she said, they often discovered that the veterans had long since died without receiving the requested benefits.

In those cases, Mrs. Brown testified, VA managers instructed employees to mark the files “NAN” — for “no action necessary.” But she said taking that step also prevented a veteran’s survivors from receiving benefits.

“If the widow ever came in to file a claim … there’s nothing there,” she told the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, her voice breaking. “There’s no information about her husband. On a daily basis, we were seeing piles of [claims] set aside. It was our obligation to contact that family. We didn’t do that. We should have.”

A VA official from Oakland assured lawmakers that the agency has since taken care of all the old claims, but Mrs. Brown called that “a lie.”

VA Assistant Inspector General Linda Halliday testified Wednesday that as recently as last month, her office discovered another 1,300 old documents in the Oakland office, including “claims that still require action.”

“In some of these cases, veterans’ benefits were affected,” she said.

The new tale of neglected veterans and their families emerged as VA whistleblowers and a government watchdog told the House committee Wednesday that the agency is still wracked with employee retaliation and widespread foul-ups in delivering veterans’ benefits, long after top VA officials claimed problems have been fixed.

Witnesses described mental abuse of VA workers and falsifying records to erase claims backlogs. One witness even told lawmakers about a VA manager in Philadelphia who allegedly compelled subordinates at a party to pay his wife $30 each to tell their fortunes.

The Clinton team has its tactics in place to fight back against the allegations in the Peter Schweizer book, Clinton Cash. They'll attack the author as a right-wing operative and say it's all partisan bile. But what they won't do is actually refute the allegations.

John Podhoretz writes,
It’s always been the Clinton way to deal with attacks by raising questions about the credibility and motives of the attackers while simultaneously pooh-poohing the seriousness of any charge by saying the allegations are old, that there’s nothing new to them.

John Podesta, a senior official in her campaign, said on Charlie Rose’s show on Monday, “The facts: There’s nothing new about the conspiracy theories.”

This, too, is a key Clintonian phrase. Last week, when it was revealed Congress had asked back in 2012 whether Hillary Clinton had a private e-mail system and got no answer, her spokesman Nick Merrill said, “There is nothing new here.”

The database Nexis reveals the first time anyone used the phrase “there’s nothing new here” in relation to the Clintons was on Sept. 20, 1992, in an interview on CNN with candidate Bill’s spokesman, George Stephan­opoulos. Asked whether Bill Clinton sought preferential treatment from his state’s senator when it came to the Vietnam draft, Stephanopoulous answered: “This is an old story. It’s been written time and time and time again and now. It just appears 46 days before the election. But there’s nothing new there.”

The story was true, of course. But so what? In the eyes of the Clintons, it was old, and so didn’t matter. Apparently, if the charge were new, then somehow, it would be more significant than if it were old.

We’ll see if Peter Schweizer has anything new. We’ve already seen we won’t see anything new from the Clintons. For them, sliming an enemy and denying everything have worked for nearly a quarter-century. Like Hillary herself, it’s a golden oldie.

Of course there are groups working to defeat Hillary Clinton, just as there are groups that are working to elect her and defeat whomever the GOP nominee turns out to be. That's the way politics work. It isn't nefarious; it's everyday politics.

No wonder MSNBC hosts are happy to advocate raising taxes. They know that they won't be paying for them.
MSNBC’s hosts and guests regularly call for higher taxes on the rich, condemning wealthy individuals and corporations who don’t pay their taxes or make use of loopholes. But recent reports, as well as records reviewed by National Review, show that at least four high-profile MSNBC on-air personalities have tax liens or warrants filed against them.

Erik Wemple of the Washington Post notes that MSNBC isn't bothering to comment on their four hosts who love talking about spreading the wealth around, but aren't so clean when it comes to paying their own taxes.
She and these other tax-payment-challenged TV personalities work for the network of activist, problem-solving government. Just watch one of MSNBC’s famous “Lean In” commercials or scan a day’s worth of coverage. In the collective ethic of MSNBC, there can be no excuse for tax delinquency.

And there’s even less of an excuse for MSNBC’s non-response to all this news. National Review fetched no response from the network. When the Erik Wemple Blog knocked today, the network again clammed up. A spokeswoman offered to go off-record with an explanation of things. We responded that we weren’t interested in spin that we couldn’t publish. Is it that hard for MSNBC to take a simple stand in favor of our common civic obligations?

Kirsten Powers chastises President Obama for being much more comfortable bashing Christians for sins committed back in the Middle Ages than in speaking up about the massacre of Christians today.
A week and a half after Obama's National Prayer Breakfast speech, 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded for being "people of the cross." Seven of the victims were former students of my friend and hero "Mama" Maggie Gobran, known as the "Mother Theresa of Cairo" for her work with the poorest of the poor. She told me these dear men grew up in rural Upper Egypt and had gone to Libya seeking work to support their families. They died with dignity as they called out to their God, while the cowardly murderers masked their faces.

Rather than hectoring Christians about their ancestors' misdeeds, Obama should honor these men and the countless Middle Eastern Christians persecuted before them.

Monday, there was more horrifying news: ISIL terrorists released a video purporting to show more religiously motivated killing. According to CNN, before beheading and shooting two groups of Christians in Libya, a speaker said, "The Islamic State has offered the Christian community (the opportunity to convert to Islam or pay a tax for being Christian) many times and set a deadline for this, but the Christians never cooperated."

So they kill them.

Indeed, let's talk more about the Crusades.

Mark Perry revisits 18 of the apocalyptic predictions made around the time that the first Earth Day was celebrated.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cruising the Web

The Obama administration once again chooses symbolic moves instead of substance as it pretends to support Saudi Arabia in Yemen but doesn't do enough to truly upset their new best friends in the region - the Iranians. The WSJ writes,
Shortly after the Iranian revolution in 1979, Jimmy Carter dispatched two squadrons of F-15s to Saudi Arabia to reassure the Kingdom that America had its back. Only when the fighters were in mid-flight did the President announce they were unarmed. Mr. Carter wanted to send a signal of resolve—but not too much resolve.

Here’s guessing the Saudis are experiencing déjá vu all over again after President Obama ordered the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt to the coast of Yemen, perhaps to interdict a flotilla of Iranian ships thought to be carrying supplies to the Iranian-backed Houthi militia in that country. We say “perhaps” because the Administration won’t say whether the U.S. would, in fact, stop the Iranian ships from making for the Yemeni coast. “I’m not telegraphing anything,” said a Pentagon spokesman about what the U.S. might be prepared to do....

But Riyadh won’t forbear for long if the Iranians can resupply by sea what the Saudis are destroying by air. The Saudis are also looking for evidence that the U.S. is still prepared to back them as Iran continues to arm the Kingdom’s enemies in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Mr. Obama has insisted that the nuclear negotiations with Iran will not affect broader U.S. Mideast policy or reshape U.S. regional alliances. Stopping the Iranian ships would be a good way to prove the President means it.

All the more so given Mr. Obama’s track record of trying not to offend Tehran. In Syria the U.S. has gone out of its way not to hit regime targets or make good on its promises to arm the Free Syrian Army because it feared upsetting Bashar Assad’s patrons in Tehran.

The Administration also reached out to the Houthis as recently as January. “The Obama administration has sought to describe the Houthis as a potential partner of Washington’s ever since the militia gained control of San’a in January,” the Journal reported late that month. “One Houthi commander said the U.S. provided logistical aid to the militants and exchanged intelligence” on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In February the U.S. was forced to evacuate its embassy in San’a, then as now under Houthi control. So much for the outreach.

Mr. Obama seems to believe that his nuclear concessions will mollify Tehran and moderate its behavior in the region. But what we’ve seen so far is that nuclear diplomacy has instead convinced Iran that it can extend its writ throughout the Middle East.

Would Mr. Obama risk his nuclear deal over a naval incident, all for the sake of standing with the Saudis over Yemen? The Iranians surely doubt it, which is why they are now testing the U.S. at sea.

A U.S. carrier battle group is a formidable display of power, especially when wielded by a President with credibility. The reason so much of the Middle East is in flames is because no one believes Mr. Obama would use this military power.

If Hillary Clinton accepted money from foreign governments while she was Secretary of State, she violated Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution. And there are quite a few federal laws that she also violated. And don't buy the argument that all the money from foreign entities flowing into the Clinton Foundation were for worthwhile charitable causes.
Between 2009 and 2012, the Clinton Foundation raised over $500 million dollars according to a review of IRS documents by The Federalist (2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008). A measly 15 percent of that, or $75 million, went towards programmatic grants. More than $25 million went to fund travel expenses. Nearly $110 million went toward employee salaries and benefits. And a whopping $290 million during that period — nearly 60 percent of all money raised — was classified merely as “other expenses.” Official IRS forms do not list cigar or dry-cleaning expenses as a specific line item. The Clinton Foundation may well be saving lives, but it seems odd that the costs of so many life-saving activities would be classified by the organization itself as just random, miscellaneous expenses.

Now, because the Clintons are Clintons (“It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is…”), their fallback defense will likely be that they didn’t technically run afoul of the law. After all, Hillary didn’t officially take control of the foundation until after she left the State Dept. And the Constitution doesn’t ever say that foreign governments can’t bribe the impeached and disbarred spouses of government officials. Sure, the Constitution says current officials can’t accept dirty cash from foreign government, but it never says that jetset spouses who fly to sex slave islands with convicted sex offenders aren’t allowed to collect under-the-table foreign cash.

That defense makes sense if you think the Founders opposed the practice of foreign governments directly bribing U.S. officials, but wholeheartedly supported the practice of foreign governments indirectly bribing U.S. officials by paying off their spouses. Are we to believe that Hillary was so divorced from the goings-on of the foundation that she was just randomly given official control of it (including having her first name added to the tax-exempt organization’s official name) immediately after leaving the State Department? Are we to believe that poor Hillary just had no clue what was going on at her family’s tax-exempt slush fund?

Marc Thiessen writes in the Washington Post about why Democrats should worry about Hillary's campaign.
If you want to know why Democrats should be worried after Hillary Clinton’s first week on the campaign trail, ask yourself this question: Can you imagine Marco Rubio, Scott Walker or Jeb Bush walking into a Chipotle wearing big, dark sunglasses, trying not to be recognized?

Can you imagine Barack Obama doing it?

Maybe Clinton’s future’s so bright she has to wear shades, but the grainy security camera pictures of the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination hiding from voters presents a troubling contrast with the growing Republican field.

Clinton planned to launch her presidential campaign with an intimate “listening tour” where she could meet and interact with everyday Americans. But when she had the chance to meet and interact with some actual everyday Americans eating their burritos, she avoided them. Then her campaign staged a visit to an Iowa coffee shop, recruiting “fake” everyday Americans for her to meet and talk with.

Who stages a visit to a coffee shop?

The whole purpose of Clinton’s road trip was to counter the image of her as a creature of Washington who can’t relate to regular folks. Instead, she highlighted that fact by planting party insiders posing as regular folks.
However, Jennifer Rubin also writes in the Washington Post to warn Republicans that they shouldn't count on Hillary Clinton's political weaknesses and various scandals to destroy her chances.
But Republicans cannot come to believe that Clinton’s faults will be sufficient to beat her. That was the mistake Republicans made in 2012 — the Obama economy would justify a GOP president.

For one thing, she will have a carefully modulated agenda that tells centrists what they want to hear and liberals what they long to hear. Lots of “investments” and “family friendly” tax credits. Much talk will be devoted to early childhood education and unspecified “fixes” in Obamacare. Moreover, she will do a number on GOP plans to “balance the budget on the backs of the poor” or “bust the budget.” She will argue that corporations and the rich should pay more so the little guy can get ahead. How do we know?

Well, that was her husband’s successful game plan. It also matches the Democratic playbook that former Bill Clinton and Obama economic adviser Larry Summers has been pushing (e.g. raise minimum wage, bolster unions, increase infrastructure spending, create a “more progressive” tax code). Is this tax and spend liberalism? Yes, but with slick packaging and lots of soothing words. After all who could be against “raising middle class incomes”?

And of course. The IRS will be monitoring churches for the content of their sermons to see if they're violating laws against electioneering by nonprofits. And they've been resisting FOIA requests into their communications with an atheist group to go after churches.
Completely apart from the administrative law-breaking, it is that First Amendment right that remains the nub of the underlying case. The public has been bombarded in recent weeks with stories of battles about the limits of private expressions of faith in the business world. What the IRS apparently is doing, at the atheist group’s request, attacks faith at an even more fundamental level than that: inside the churches’ own doors, at their very pulpits.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1808, “I consider the government of the U.S. as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, disciplines, or exercises.”

Surely, if a government agency is monitoring religious institutions in a way that could lead to such intermeddling, the public deserves an explanation of how, why, when, and where such monitoring is taking place. But this is Obama’s IRS. It seems to think it answers to nobody. The courts must disabuse it of that virtually criminal notion, with every power at the courts’ disposal.

Here's an interesting question: "Why are Democrats talking about income inequality in the 7th year of Obama?" Silvio Canto links to this post by W. James Antle III analyzing how income inequality got worse under Obama.
Let’s consult that notorious spewer of right-wing talking points, The New York Times: “Income inequality in the United States has been growing for decades, but the trend appears to have accelerated during the Obama administration.”

Income inequality may be even worse under Obama than George W. Bush. Emmanuel Saez, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, memorably found that the average income of the top 1 percent grew by 11.2 percent in real terms since 2009. The bottom 99 percent saw their incomes decrease by 0.4 percent.

That means 121 percent of the income gains from the Obama recovery went to the wealthiest during the period Saez examined. The top 1 percent took in 65 percent of the income gains when the economy was expanding under Bush from 2002-07, only 45 percent during the Clinton economic boom from 1993 to 2000....

Let’s consult that notorious spewer of right-wing talking points, The New York Times: “Income inequality in the United States has been growing for decades, but the trend appears to have accelerated during the Obama administration.”

Income inequality may be even worse under Obama than George W. Bush. Emmanuel Saez, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, memorably found that the average income of the top 1 percent grew by 11.2 percent in real terms since 2009. The bottom 99 percent saw their incomes decrease by 0.4 percent.

That means 121 percent of the income gains from the Obama recovery went to the wealthiest during the period Saez examined. The top 1 percent took in 65 percent of the income gains when the economy was expanding under Bush from 2002-07, only 45 percent during the Clinton economic boom from 1993 to 2000....

But if Obama was a Republican, he would be more widely criticized for devoting yet another State of the Union to an economic trend he’s watched get worse for six years.

Moreover, it’s not like most of the workers who would be imported under the president’s preferred immigration will compete with CEOs. He supported the Wall Street bailout.

Pharmaceutical companies pushed for Obamacare, which the health care law subsidizes along with insurance companies. It’s becoming a talking point on the left that Obama has prosecuted fewer financial crimes than Reagan or either Bush.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton puts on her inner Robespierre and talks about how we need the "toppling" of the wealthiest 1 percent. Of course, she resides in the top percent of the top 1 percent. Allahpundit remembers Hillary's populist roots.
It’s just impossible to take her seriously about this anymore. That’s one of the ironies of the campaign, that the “same old Hillary” really isn’t the same anymore in terms of how she’s politically positioned.

And believe it or not, youngsters, once upon a time righties did take Hillary Clinton kinda sorta seriously as a class warrior (a fact her campaign is now desperate to remind lefties of, as proof that she’s an authentic populist after all). I myself noted more than once during the 2008 campaign how easily startling comments about collectivism and redistribution sometimes seemed to slip from her mouth. Remember when she grumbled about oil companies’ profits being at an all-time high and recommended taking them for an energy fund? Remember the “‘we’re all in it together’ society,” a bit of Warrenism several years before Warren became the rage? Remember “We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good”? Calling for “toppling” the one percent is of a piece with that, a little flourish for effect from someone who knows how deeply compromised she is on this subject. If a wave of liberal populism handed Congress back to the Democrats and the White House to Hillary, it’d be worth worrying about how far she’d go to accommodate the true class warriors in her party. As it is, with the House sure to be safely Republican throughout her first term, it’s a cheesy pander aimed at keeping progressives complacent during the primaries.
She might have started out her life in politics as a populist, but she's been a crony capitalist ever since. Her awkwardness of talking the income inequality message reminds me of how candidates such as Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were uncomfortable mouthing conservative arguments. They couldn't defend those positions because they didn't truly believe them. That's why Hillary's efforts to sell herself as someone who was "dead broke" as they left the White House were so cringe worthy. She just can't talk the income inequality rhetoric as smoothly as someone who hasn't spent the past quarter century raking in money from the richest people in the nation.

John Podhoretz also sees the similarities to Mitt Romney's awkwardness in trying to portray himself as a true conservative.
Most of her life is spent exclusively in the company of the very people whom she said she wishes to “topple,” and it’s a simple truism that any normal person does not choose to associate with people of whom she disapproves and wishes to see laid low.

And this is where she reminds me of Mitt, although she has an infinitely easier path to her party’s nomination than he ever had.

Remember when Rom­ney attempted to demonstrate his right-wing bona fides by declaring himself “severely conservative” — a phrase no actual conservative would ever have used to characterize his own views?
Remember when he needed to firm up anti-immigration types and so called upon 11 million illegals to “self-deport” — a weirdly Dr. Evil-like phrase whose wording suggested even he didn’t believe it?

Romney thought it would help to demonstrate his right-wing credentials by saying things that sounded as though they had been written by a left-winger trying to imagine what awful things a right-winger would say about himself.

They didn’t help. They only made him seem like a man wearing a costume.

In the same way, Hillary the Toppler is making herself sound like Madame Defarge, the merciless revolutionary of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” of whom Dickens says: “It was nothing to her, that an innocent man was to die for the sins of his forefathers; she saw, not him, but them.

“It was nothing to her, that his wife was to be made a widow and his daughter an orphan; that was insufficient punishment, because they were her natural enemies and her prey, and as such had no right to live.”

Remember, I’m not the one summoning up Madame Defarge; Hillary Clinton has done it to herself — which is why you know and I know and everybody else knows this radical populist nonsense is totally disingenuous.
And why? Because she knows she looks more like Marie Antoinette these days than a Jacobin on the barricades.

Hillary Clinton shouldn’t need to burnish her left-wing credentials. Twenty years ago, she was considered the liberal conscience of her husband’s White House.

And yet here she is. She has spent the last 15 years as a voice of liberal corporatism, not of Occupy Wall Street.

Before moving to the White House, Hillary Clinton was very much a creature of the upper middle class — a successful lawyer married to a politician who made $35,000 a year.

Since then, she has literally transcended class. It’s likely she has not driven a car in 23 years, or carried a bag.

Her commercial flight back from Iowa last week is almost certainly one of the very few commercial flights she has taken since 1992.

Her husband has earned at least $150 million since 2001. Between a book deal and speeches, she has made something like $20 million since leaving Foggy Bottom in 2013.

So whom exactly is Hillary Clinton going to lead the revolution against? Herself?

She might as well have called herself “severely left-wing.” She might as well have called for her own “self-toppling.”

Her sheer inauthenticity is astonishing. And if she continues to speak in ways that surely set off even the most hardened liberal’s bull detector, she is not going to be the president of the United States.

As Timothy Carney reminds us, the Clintons are always about the cronyism.
Turn over any rock in Clintonworld, and you'll find some species of cronyism wriggling out from beneath it. Look in her Senate career, and you'll find her selling public policy in exchange for campaign contributions. Peek into the Clinton presidency, and you'll see her husband selling pardons for gifts to his presidential library.

The Clinton Foundation was a breeding ground for cronyism, with new species being bred by the tawdry liaisons of petrol-state money, U.S. corporations, and the former first family. Hillary's brother Tony Rodham, Clinton confidants Terry McAuliffe and Rahm Emanuel — they all occupy this world along with a rogue's gallery of revolving-door lobbyists and public-policy profiteers.
The problem is that many Republicans have problems making the charges stick. But they have to if they want to defeat Hillary Clinton.
When Hillary attacks Republicans for wanting smaller government, point out that her big-government gambits tend to rig the game, profiting her friends and big business donors in ways they could never profit so much in a free market. Point out that her preferred policies enrich the lawmakers-turned-lobbyists and the corporations big enough to afford them.

When Hillary tries to sound populist, saying things like "rich people … do not contribute to the growth of their own countries," the response is easy: "Secretary Clinton, maybe you're speaking from narrow personal experience, because what you said is true mostly of people who get rich off their connections to political power."

The very visible and undeniable fact that Bill and Hillary turned their public service into massive personal wealth is bound to be abhorrent to many Americans, especially swing voters disgusted with a political system that rewards the insiders.

Hillary's deep antipathy toward transparency makes cronyism a more salient issue. Why, as secretary of state, did she try to dodge federal transparency laws and scrub all her email records? What has she been hiding?

Matt Lewis has a new theory about who wins presidential elections - the cooler candidate.
This wasn't always the case, of course. Just going back to the 1970s, Richard Nixon arguably wasn't cooler than George McGovern, and Gerald Ford definitely was not cooler than Ronald Reagan.

But lately, cool means victory. Our last three presidents were cooler than the six competitors they bested. Bill Clinton was cooler than George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole, George W. Bush was cooler than Al Gore and John Kerry, and Barack Obama was cooler than John McCain and Mitt Romney (and in the 2008 primary, Obama was cooler than Hillary Clinton, too).

Of course, cool can be in the eye of the beholder — but I'm sure that most liberals would concede that Bush was cooler than Gore, at least in the conventional sense, and that most conservatives know Obama is cooler than Romney.

And that's the thing about cool: You know it when you see it.
And let's just agree that there is no universe where Hillary Clinton is cool.

Meanwhile, Clinton's aides defend their practice of of screening the "everyday Americans" that they allow to interact with Hillary during her political appearances.
Asked whether the campaign had brought any of the customers with them, Palmieri said, 'I think maybe some of them, but I don't know.'

New Hampshire's WMUR-TV later reported that two of the people Clinton spoke with had been asked to come.

Clinton's team took flak last week in Iowa after a Democratic Party operative conceded that Clinton's state political director Troy Price pre-vetted and drove a trio of activists to a coffee shop, where they played the part of everyday Americans while shutters snapped.

The man, Austin Bird, had been an Obama intern in 2012 and was Vice President Joe Biden's chauffeur when he came to Davenport Iowa last year.

As senior campaign aide Huma Abedin made tea, Palmieri defended the practice of recruiting participants to attend those small meetings.

It's a necessary evil in early primary and caucus states, Palmieri said, and part of recruiting future Clinton evangelists from among the Democratic base.

'We have to go after Democrats before we do anything else,' she insisted. 'And in Iowa? Especially in Iowa, and New Hampshire.'

'But sure. People are asked –'

Palmieri thought briefly and reframed her comments in the past tense.

'People were asked to come to a meeting at a coffee house,' she said, referring to a stop in in LeClaire, Iowa.

Price, the Iowa political strategist, brought Bird to the Iowa coffee house along with two young women – one a Planned Parenthood employee, the other a College Democrats chapter head.

'If someone like that loves her, then they'll talk to other people, and so on, and that's going to help,' Palmieri said.
It's so pitiful to see them twist and stretch to try to explain why they have to bring in Democratic activists to be the "everyday Americans" that Hillary is supposed to be listening to as she travels around the early election states.

There are some alert people in Minnesota. Apparently, it was only an observant worker in the Minneapolis Passport Agency who was suspicious enough of an 18-year old student who applied for an expedited passport to travel to Turkey to alert authorities who eventually arrested the young man for trying to join ISIS. It reminds me of the alert flight instructor in Minnesota who noticed that Zacarias Moussaoui was taking flight lessons for a jumbo jet but seemed to not really know anything about the 747 he was getting simulation training to fly. Moussaoui turned out to be one of the 9/11 terrorists, but at that time, the FBI couldn't get permission to search his room and laptop.