Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cruising the Web

Tom Bevan has some intelligent comments on what Cantor's loss and Graham's win mean for Republican politics.
In truth, I think the explanation is a bit simpler than all of that, and is more universal than the simplistic “immigration reform/Tea Party” narratives suggest. It is as follows: We are in a deeply anti-Washington environment, both throughout the country and in the Republican Party in particular. In this environment, representatives who pay insufficient attention to what is going on in their districts are in grave danger of losing. There are two components to this explanation.

First, analysts need to understand that the Republican base is furious with the Republican establishment, especially over the Bush years. From the point of view of conservatives I’ve spoken with, the early- to mid-2000s look like this: Voters gave Republicans control of Congress and the presidency for the longest stretch since the 1920s.

And what do Republicans have to show for it? Temporary tax cuts, No Child Left Behind, the Medicare prescription drug benefit, a new Cabinet department, increased federal spending, TARP, and repeated attempts at immigration reform. Basically, despite a historic opportunity to shrink government, almost everything that the GOP establishment achieved during that time moved the needle leftward on domestic policy. Probably the only unambiguous win for conservatives were the Roberts and Alito appointments to the Supreme Court; the former is viewed with suspicion today while the latter only came about after the base revolted against Harriet Miers.

The icing on the cake for conservatives is that these moves were justified through an argument that they were necessary to continue to win elections and take issues off the table for Democrats. Instead, Bush’s presidency was followed in 2008 by the most liberal Democratic presidency since Lyndon Johnson, accompanied by sizable Democratic House and Senate majorities.

You don’t have to sympathize with this view, but if you don’t understand it, you will never understand the Tea Party....

When pundits say that the Tea Party seems like it is more interested in defeating Republicans than Democrats, they aren’t entirely off base. They just miss the reasoning behind that animus toward the GOP establishment.

This leads to the second part of the argument. We might loosely state it as follows: Republican politicians who seem to get the above-mentioned points tend to win. Those who do not, lose. This is true even if their backgrounds might qualify them to be high on the Tea Party “hit list.” The politicians who lose are those who either never see it coming or refuse to believe that they are vulnerable.
Jonah Goldberg explains why Hillary's book was doomed to being a snorefest.
Have some sympathy for Clinton. She is an accomplished woman, but writing an exciting book about her unremarkable tenure as secretary of state would be hard enough. Doing so without throwing the president under the bus and telling tales out of school is simply impossible.

This is because Clinton is not an exciting person. Yes, many people are excited about her, favorably and unfavorably. Yes, she is at the center of many hot cultural and political controversies. But beneath all that, she’s a remarkably dull figure.

It’s like Allen’s ironic exclamation point. She’s exciting because of the stuff that follows her around, and to the extent she is interesting at all, it is to see how she tries to manipulate her image to her benefit.
Another element of Clinton's candidacy that everyone in the know realizes is that nothing that Hillary Clinton says is sincere.
Clinton may be president one day, but she’s already presidential in one sense: Her statements are never really taken at face value. Every utterance is examined for its ironic content and parsed like the rough draft of ad copy. What will people take away from this? What message is she sending to her fans? What spin is she offering to the media? What bait is she giving her enemies? How true is it?

The reason for this is that, unlike her husband, she’s not very good at faking sincerity.

She told People magazine that she wrote the book herself by hand on paper, “in my little old Chappaqua farmhouse, in the attic where I hang out.”
Oh, come on. No one believes that she wrote the book herself whether in longhand or on the computer. And her house in Chappaqua is not a little, old farmhouse. Why does she even try such fake folkiness. No one buys it and, as Goldberg says, she's very bad at it.

How Clinton's administration reacted to a POW being held after Black Hawk Down was different from the Bergdahl release. The Obama administration needs a new talking point.

President Obama's policies in Iraq have resulted in a disaster there as Islamist radicals have taken over almost the entire province of Nineveh. They've captured huge caches of American-supplied weapons of vehicles. They've taken cities whose names became familiar to Americans as we fought mile by mile to secure that territory under David Petraeus's surge - Mosul, Ramadi, Fallujah and now Tikrit. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are fleeing ahead of the terrorist groups takeover. We may now see the same sort of humanitarian crisis that we have seen in Syria. This disaster can be laid at President Obama's policy of declaring the war over and bugging out. Wars don't end just because one side declared it over. As Guy Benson writes,
That Daily Beast story refers to ISIS as a "group so extreme it got booted from al Qaeda." That's...not an exaggeration. Foreign policy expert Tom Rogan analyzes the group, calling them well-organized and well-funded. He summarizes that ISIS is "as bad as terrorism gets." And they now control substantial swaths of territory in Iraq -- the liberation and stabilization of which resulted in a terrible amount of American bloodshed. As we mentioned this morning, candidate Barack Obama used his opposition to the Iraq war as a political springboard in 2008, but emphasized the need to sufficiently train and equip Iraqi forces to maintain control of their country in the wake of a US withdrawal. He also pledged to keep a residual US force on the ground in the country to combat Al Qaeda and support Iraq's security forces. Today, those forces are disintegrating in the face of a burgeoning Islamist threat posed by a group that's too extreme for Al Qaeda. The US military is nowhere to be found because the Obama administration badly bungled negotiations over a status of forces agreement in 2011. Incredibly, a White House spokesman cited a nonexistent SOFA yesterday while fielding questions from reporters. The disquieting reality is that America -- having invested so much in Iraq -- is reduced to watching from the sidelines as the worst case scenario plays out in real time. Al Qaeda and its offshoots are not "on the run;" they're on the rise. "Mass beheadings" in Mosul and Tikrit are being reported. (Links in the original)
The WSJ contrasts the situation in Iraq when Obama took office to what is happening today.
Since President Obama likes to describe everything he inherited from his predecessor as a "mess," it's worth remembering that when President Bush left office Iraq was largely at peace. Civilian casualties fell from an estimated 31,400 in 2006 to 4,700 in 2009. U.S. military casualties were negligible. Then CIA Director Michael Hayden said, with good reason, that "al Qaeda is on the verge of a strategic defeat in Iraq."

Fast forward through five years of the Administration's indifference, and Iraq is close to exceeding the kind of chaos that engulfed it before the U.S. surge. The city of Fallujah, taken from insurgents by the Marines at a cost of 95 dead and nearly 600 wounded in November 2004, fell again to al Qaeda in January. The Iraqi government has not been able to reclaim the entire city—just 40 miles from Baghdad. More than 1,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in May alone, according to the Iraq Body Count web site....

The Administration's policy of strategic neglect toward Iraq has created a situation where al Qaeda effectively controls territories stretching for hundreds of miles through Anbar Province and into Syria. It will likely become worse for Iraq as the Assad regime consolidates its gains in Syria and gives ISIS an incentive to seek its gains further east. It will also have consequences for the territorial integrity of Iraq, as the Kurds consider independence for their already autonomous and relatively prosperous region.

All this should serve as a warning to what we can expect in Afghanistan as the Administration replays its Iraq strategy of full withdrawal after 2016. It should also serve as a reminder of the magnitude of the strategic blunder of leaving no U.S. forces in Iraq after the country finally had a chance to serve as a new anchor of stability and U.S. influence in the region. An Iraqi army properly aided by U.S. air power would not have collapsed as it did in Mosul.

In withdrawing from Iraq in toto, Mr. Obama put his desire to have a talking point for his re-election campaign above America's strategic interests. Now we and the world are facing this reality: A civil war in Iraq and the birth of a terrorist haven that has the confidence, and is fast acquiring the means, to raise a banner for a new generation of jihadists, both in Iraq and beyond.
The Washington Post is not impressed with Obama's foreign policy failures.
In Syria, where for three years Mr. Obama has assiduously avoided meaningful engagement, civil war has given rise to “the most catastrophic humanitarian crisis any of us have seen in a generation,” Mr. Obama’s United Nations ambassador Samantha Power said in February.

In Libya, Mr. Obama joined in a bombing campaign to topple dictator Moammar Gaddafi and then declined to provide security assistance to help the nation right itself. It, too, is on the verge of civil war.

In Iraq, Mr. Obama chose not to leave a residual force that might have helped keep the nation’s politics on track, even as the White House insisted there was no reason to worry. Denis McDonough, then deputy national security adviser and now White House chief of staff, told reporters in 2011 that Mr. Obama “said what we’re looking for is an Iraq that’s secure, stable and self-reliant, and that’s exactly what we got here. So there’s no question this is a success.”

Now Mr. Obama is applying the same recipe to Afghanistan: total withdrawal of U.S. troops by 2016, regardless of conditions.

At West Point, the president stressed that “not every problem has a military solution.” That is obviously true. In fact, a goal of U.S. policy should be to help shape events so that military solutions do not have to be considered. The presence of U.S. troops in South Korea, for example, has helped keep the peace for more than a half century.

Total withdrawal can instead lead to challenges like that posed by Iraq today, where every option — from staying aloof to more actively helping Iraqi forces — carries risks. The administration needs to accept the reality of the mounting danger in the Middle East and craft a strategy that goes beyond the slogan of “ending war responsibly.”
Daniel Henninger excoriates Obama's policies.
Barack Obama is fiddling while the world burns. Iraq, Pakistan, Ukraine, Russia, Nigeria, Kenya, Syria. These foreign wildfires, with more surely to come, will burn unabated for two years until the United States has a new president. The one we've got can barely notice or doesn't care....

Now if you want to vent about " George Bush's war," be my guest. But George Bush isn't president anymore. Barack Obama is because he wanted the job and the responsibilities that come with the American presidency. Up to now, burying those responsibilities in the sand has never been in the job description....

Let us repeat the most quoted passage in former Defense Secretary Robert Gates's memoir, "Duty." It describes the March 2011 meeting with Mr. Obama about Afghanistan in the situation room. "As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn't trust his commander, can't stand Karzai, doesn't believe in his own strategy and doesn't consider the war to be his," Mr. Gates wrote. "For him, it's all about getting out."

The big Obama bet is that Americans' opinion-polled "fatigue" with the world (if not his leadership) frees him to create a progressive domestic legacy. This Friday Mr. Obama is giving a speech to the Sioux Indians in Cannon Ball, N.D., about "jobs and education."

Meanwhile, Iraq may be transforming into (a) a second Syria or (b) a restored caliphate. Past some point, the world's wildfires are going to consume the Obama legacy. And leave his successor a nightmare.

Meanwhile the John Kerry State Department seems to think that our biggest international crisis is global warming.

Jake Tapper reports that the VA encouraged workers at a Pittsburgh VA hospital to mislead members of Congress investigating waiting lists.

President Obama so lacks class. He turned a commencement speech at a Massachusetts high school into a political rally to urge the students to vote against Republicans. Can you imagine if a Republican leader was so political in a commencement speech? Of course, finding a Republican speaker at commencement addresses today is almost an impossible task.

There are six very important Supreme Court cases to watch for over the remaining weeks of this Court's term.

Obamacare is going to increase the numbers of the uninsured. And get ready for over a hundred billion dollars to be spent in overpayments of Obamacare subsidies.
After all, subsidy payments depend on individuals' claims about future incomes, family size, immigration status and the availability of "affordable" coverage at work. Obama promised that all this would be instantly verified during the application process, but the administration now admits that at least 25% of sign-ups could be either ineligible for any subsidies or are getting the wrong amount.

And, since the law restricts the IRS' ability to "claw back" any overpayments — and caps how much must be repaid — many of those who get too-big subsidies are likely to simply ignore the government's request to have that money back.

Holtz-Eakin calculates that if the same 21% error rate applies to ObamaCare subsidies, it will mean $152 billion in overpayments in a decade. In other words, these overpayments could easily swamp the $120 billion budget savings the CBO said ObamaCare would produce.
This is, of course, just one way the deficit-cutting claims were phony. As we've pointed out in this space many times, the CBO based its estimates on a fantasy in which ObamaCare worked exactly as predicted.

Dana Milbank posits something that Republicans have said for years - that Obama's administration suffers from groupthink and Obama doesn't have anyone who will push back to tell him he's about to make a mistake.

Ross Douthat explains why the Democratic Party resembles Austria-Hungary at the end of the 19th century with Hillary playing the role of Emperor Franz Josef.

How the liberals' approach to school choice resembles Charles Dickens' Mrs. Jellyby from Bleak House.

Updating Schoolhouse Rock on how a bill becomes a law.

How Hillary Clinton's tale of financial woe insults ordinary workers. John Podhoretz has a lot of fun with Hillary's complaints.
Course Bill was up in the Chappaqua double-wide and I was in the Washington lean-to, but I can’t offend the Lord, I allus knew where Bill was on account of the LoJack I had put in him back in ’98....

Still, it was lonely for Bill, him there with no one to talk to but the five Secret Service agents and the stews on Old Man Burkle’s Gulfstream. He was sacrificin’, and I knowed it, and he knowed it too.
Also we had to have a place to keep my carpet bag.

Meantimes, I had to be down in DC for to do my piece tendin’ to the young’uns of New York state. Their folks had done the choosin’ of me back to Election Day and dadgum if I waren’t gonna do my all for them kids.

But that was where the strugglin’ come in, you see. It was them two places, the double-wide and the lean-to. Meantime, Chelsea needed the educating, and that school of hers, Stanford, wouldn’t accept our prize pig in trade for the spring tuition.

We was sore beset. Nights I’d take to sobbin’ over the candle starin’ at the ledger, tryin’ to figure out how to make ends meet. Bill had to go vegan cause we couldn’t even afford the jerky.

I mean, what with the presidential pension, the Arkansas governor’s pension, my paycheck from the gummint, add ’em up and that’s only 400K. I mean, thank the Lord for the Medicaid! I was fixing to apply for the Earned Income Tax Credit, was what I was gonna do.

Some clucked their tongues and said I got me a $8 million advance for my book just before we loaded up the truck and skedaddled out’a the White House. Them people don’t know nothin’.

Firstways, you don’t get the whole eight up front, you only get 2 million of the 8 million, and then your agent skims 200K offa the top a that, so you’re basically left with squat. Chicken feed that ain’t no good even for the chickens.

It waren’t until August 2001 that Bill made his book deal. Yes, it was a big’un, but we didn’t know he was gonna get a $15 million advance! We figgered $20,000 tops.

Even now it’s painin’ me to recall it — the same way it pained me the day I told Diane Sawyer we was “dead broke.”