Monday, March 10, 2014

Cruising the Web

Quite a few political observers such as the Washington Post's Dan Balz are intrigued with the article by Henry Olsen positing that there are four different factions within the Republican Party.
REPUBLICAN VOTERS fall into four rough camps. They are: moderate or liberal voters; somewhat conservative voters; very conservative, evangelical voters; and very conservative, secular voters. Each of these groups supports extremely different types of candidates. Each of these groups has also demonstrated stable preferences over the past twenty years.
Ross Douthat builds on Olsen's analysis to look to see which candidate in 2016 is the best position to unite at least two branches of the party.

Jonathan Turley writes of the dangers of President Obama's grab for executive power.
I happen to agree with many of the president's policies. However, in our system, it is often more important how we do something than what we do. Priorities and policies and presidents change. Democrats will rue the day of their acquiescence to this shift of power when a future president negates an environmental law, or an anti-discrimination law, or tax laws.

To be clear, President Obama is not a dictator, but there is a danger in his aggregation of executive power.

Our system is changing in a fundamental way without even a whimper of regret. No one branch in the Madisonian system can go it alone — not Congress, not the courts, and not the president. The branches are stuck with each other in a system of shared powers, for better or worse. They may deadlock or even despise one another. The founders clearly foresaw such periods. They lived in such a period.

Whatever problems we face today in politics, they are of our own making. They should not be used to take from future generations a system that has safeguarded our freedoms for more than 200 years.
Fred Barnes writes about how Obama seems totally ignorant of what it takes to build jobs in America or how Obama's policy choices are actually destroying jobs.

Megan McArdle ponders why the uninsured are still not getting insurance despite Obamacare. The data seem to show that the great majority of people buying insurance through the exchanges are people who were already insured.

Jeff Jacoby explains why bashing Bibi Netanyahu is not a strategy for peace in the Middle East.
Sound familiar? Of course. This is the fantasy Middle East, in which peace is the responsibility of the Israelis alone, and Palestinian rejectionism is merely an excuse for the Jewish state to drag its feet. It is part of a larger fantasy world — one in which revanchist Russian rulers sweetly change their policies at the push of a “reset” button, and in which a brutal Syrian regime swears off chemical weapons for fear of crossing an American “red line.”

In this wishful environment, there is a robust Palestinian peace camp eager for a two-state solution: a sovereign state of Palestine coexisting in harmony beside the Jewish state of Israel. If that lovely solution hasn’t materialized, it can only be due to unlovely stubbornness on the part of the Israelis and their elected leader. After all, the Palestinian leader is the peace-loving Mahmoud Abbas, who, Obama says, is “sincere about his willingness to recognize Israel and its right to exist” and “committed to nonviolence and diplomatic efforts.”

But that is true only in the make-believe Middle East. In the real Middle East, it is Netanyahu who unilaterally halted settlement construction for 10 months — an unprecedented goodwill gesture — and whose Cabinet indicated last month that it would swallow its qualms and accept John Kerry’s framework for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The real Abbas, on the other hand, spurned Israel’s offer of a Palestinian state in 2008, then refused for years to take part in US-sponsored talks with Israel, confident that Washington would pressure Israel into making painful concessions in order to lure the Palestinians back to the table. Those concessions eventually included the release of dozens of convicted Palestinian murderers, who were hailed by Abbas as “heroes” at an event celebrating their release. Yet instead of negotiating in good faith at last, Abbas wants still more up-front concessions, a demand he repeated on Monday.

The delusion at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is that the lack of Palestinian sovereignty is what keeps the conflict alive, and that the tension and violence would end if only the Arabs of Palestine could have a state of their own.
Sadly, this is the fantasy which President Obama and John Kerry along with many Europeans believe. Reality doesn't enter into their desire for peace. In fact, the State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has reportdly said that Palestinians do not even need to recognize Israel as a Jewish state as part of a peace agreement. So what is the Obama administration even asking of the Palstinians?

we have already experienced the political version of Ellen DeGeneres's joke about voting for "12 Years a Slave" or be called a racist.

Debra Saunders ponders the odd story of Lois Lerner. Ignore the silly dramatics of Darrell Issa stupidly shutting off Elijah Cumming's microphone and consider the fact that she is claiming the protections of the Fifth Amendment even though she claims to have done nothing wrong and has talked to the Department of Justice without any grant of immunity.
Lerner's silence is especially unsettling given that her attorney William Taylor III told reporters that she had given a full interview to the Department of Justice with no grant of immunity. Lerner's lawyers, he said, have confidence that prosecutors, unlike Issa, are open-minded. The thing is that also unlike Issa, the Department of Justice is in a position to prosecute people.

"It does strike me as a little odd," Rutgers law professor George Thomas III told The Wall Street Journal. "One explanation is the one given by her lawyer. The other, darker explanation is that she and her lawyer think the DOJ is not interested in a serious investigation of the IRS treatment of these tax-exempt groups."

Could it be that Lerner's lawyers do not fear the often-terrifying Justice Department precisely because President Barack Obama already signaled there is no cause for concern because the IRS story is a "phony scandal"?

Similarly, the president signaled his disdain for conservative nonprofits during the 2010 and 2012 election seasons. Lo and behold, the IRS started to put conservative tax-exempt organizations on the slow track and under a microscope.

Last year, Lerner admitted that after the IRS saw an uptick in applications for social welfare organizations in 2010, staff began screening for groups that used terms such as "Tea Party" and "Patriots." She even apologized. "That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, insensitive and inappropriate. That's not how we go about selecting cases for further review," Lerner said.

She also claimed that IRS staffers did not target tea party patriot types "because of any political bias. They did it because they were working together. This was a streamlined way for them to refer to the cases."

That is, it was convenient.

I do not believe that claim. I don't know many liberals who actually believe it, either. I do believe that if the Bush administration's IRS had targeted social welfare groups that used terms such as "anti-war" and "torture," the left would have wanted to investigate. They would have wanted to know whether the IRS policy had come from the White House.

And they wouldn't have given a pass to officials who took the Fifth.

Milbank is put out that Issa "forced" Lerner to invoke her right against self-incrimination "no fewer than 10 times."

Apparently, it would be the gentlemanly thing for Issa to allow Lerner to maintain a version of events that defies credulity without answering to the American public.

Ignorance is bliss.
George Will is equally skeptical of the IRS's claim that it is all just a coincidence that they continually went after conservative groups.
The idea that politicians should write laws restricting people critical of them is as perverse as the idea that the sprawling, opaque IRS bureaucracy should be assigned to construe and apply such laws. It is bad enough that there is the misbegotten Federal Election Commission to do what the First Amendment forbids — government regulation of the quantity, content and timing of political speech.

This column has previously noted that in 1996 a Republican Senate candidate called the FEC to dispute campaign finance charges made by Democrats. The head of the FEC’s enforcement division told the Republican: “Promise me you will never run for office again, and we will drop this case.” So spoke Lois Lerner.

There almost certainly are people, above her and beyond the IRS, who initiated or approved the IRS’s punitive targeting of conservative groups and who hope Lerner’s history of aggressive partisanship will cause investigators to conclude that she is as high as responsibility for the targeting rises. Those people should hire criminal defense attorneys.

The Democrats' candidates in 2014 seem to be getting whiter.

Why is the Obama administration silent about the war over charter schools going on now in new York? They are supposed to support the innovations brought by charter schools, but they are notably absent when the Democratic mayor vows to destroy schools that are successfully educating poor, minority children.

Heh, heh. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is itself guilty of the "disparate impact" that it has been using to plague industries.