Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cruising the Web

Gee, President Obama seems quite eager to blame the Bush administration for his pulling American troops out of Iraq. As James Taranto notices, Obama's defense of his policies shifts around from explaining why he didn't achieve a Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqis and then saying that he would have pulled the troops out anyway.
So he made the right decision when he made the decision that wasn't his decision to make.

Keep in mind that the question Obama was asked was whether he had second thoughts about the decision to withdraw all ground troops from Iraq. He could have simply said no and then delivered what turned out to be the latter half of his answer: that a continued troop presence would have provided little benefit to Iraq and imposed great costs on the U.S. So why did he first go through the exercise of blaming others, including George W. Bush, for the pullout? That implies that he does have second thoughts.

But if the president's disavowal of responsibility for the withdrawal seems at odds with his insistence that it was a good policy, there is a common thread that ties them together: a determination not to acknowledge error.

If only so many Democratic senators hadn't decided to retire this year, their party wouldn't be facing possibly losing their Senate majority.

Jonah Goldberg dissects what he calls Obama's box-checking as foreign policy.
At the press conference, the president made no mention of this in his prepared remarks about the Africa summit, which he read aloud with all of the passion of a DMV bureaucrat explaining the different methods of payment for a parking ticket. He then took questions. Chris Jansing of NBC asked whether the sanctions against Russia were working. With his customary logic-chopping defensiveness, the president responded that the sanctions were doing what they were intended to do, but it was unclear whether they were actually working. This is like explaining that the pepper spray did everything it was supposed to do but the bear is eating your face anyway.

It’s also perfectly Obamaesque. I did exactly what I set out to do. If it’s not working, it’s only because someone else isn’t responding the way they’re supposed to. I gave a speech telling the oceans to stop rising, damn it! I even said “let me be clear.”

The point of the sanctions isn’t to prove that sanctions can cause “economic pain.” The point is to deter Vladimir Putin. And on that score, they clearly aren’t working at all. It’s amazing to me how much Obama thinks and talks like a bureaucrat. I’ve checked my box! I did my job! I’ve fulfilled my responsibilities. If the bear is eating your face, it must be the fault of Jones in accounting. Hate that guy.

This has been Obama’s standard response to problems around the globe. He did what he was “supposed to do,” and whenever the consequences of his actions create problems, it’s because others didn’t do what they were supposed to do. I pulled troops out of Iraq. I reneged on missile defense in Eastern Europe. I “reset” with Russia. I intervened in Libya. I didn’t intervene in Syria. I told Leon Panetta to deal with Benghazi. I took the blue pill. The fact that the Iraqi pullout was destabilizing, that Putin saw his moves as weakness, that Islamists took over Libya, that Assad stayed in power, that the Matrix revealed itself anyway: These all reflect someone else’s failures.

Byron York takes a detailed look at the North Carolina Senate race and finds it a battle between two nondescript candidates. So the campaign will be fought by the attack ads that outside groups and the parties can hurl at each other. We're already seeing some of those ads now on our TVs such as the claims by the Democrats that the Republican legislature has "cut almost $500 million from education" although education spending has gone up every year that Tillis has been speaker. Meanwhile the Republican groups do all they can to lash Hagan to Obama.

Legal Insurrection highlights how Wendy Davis is playing the rape card in her increasingly faltering campaign for governor.

Male students are starting to fight back against colleges that deny them due process and assume them guilty until proven innocent if accused of sexual harassment or assault. And the Obama's Department of Education is pushing colleges to take that approach.
Parisi is one of at least 30 men who are striking back against campus rules on sexual assault that deny them due process by assuming their guilt. Their ranks have quadrupled since 2011.

This reversal of one of the bedrock principles of the American justice system stems from a bizarre interpretation of the Title IX provision in the Education Amendments of 1972 designed to protect women from discrimination.

The interpretation has been forced on universities by the Obama administration, and it thrives on many American college campuses, thanks to politically correct cultures that take women's words at face value while assuming the worst about men.

Elizabeth Price Foley, a Florida International University law professor, described the problem with the interpretation of Title IX as benefiting women at the expense of men in a “he said/she said” situation.

“The Department of Education under the Obama administration has adopted shockingly broad new guidelines under Title IX that not only encompass off-campus behavior — that should be no business of a college or university — but also require the use of a low ‘preponderance of the evidence’ standard for sexual assault claims,” Price Foley told the Examiner.

“The individuals who hear these claims are generally predisposed to find in favor of a female accuser, and young men are sometimes severely punished by colleges and universities based on little more than a bare accusation made by someone whose memory of events is questionable,” she added.
And here's another story of a young man's due process rights being denied by the University of Massachusetts. A few monetary judgments against universities for their blatant disregard for due process might force them to address such cases more even-handedly.

Jennifer Rubin ponders the teachable moment from the results of Obama's inaction in Syria and Iraq.

Even blue-state Democrats are trying to pretend that they're not real Democrats.
t’s one thing for Democrats running in red parts of the country to sound like Republicans on the campaign trail. It’s another when Democrats running in purple or even blue territory try to do so.

Yet that’s what’s happening in race after race this season.

Faced with a treacherous political environment, many Democrats are trotting out campaign ads that call for balanced budgets, tax cuts and other more traditionally GOP positions. Some of them are running in congressional districts that just two years ago broke sharply for President Barack Obama.
The response for Republicans should be pretty clear: Do voters want a faux conservative or a real one? Do voters want to bet for the faux conservative who will also vote to make Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House? Game, set, match.

Sadly, Obamacare isn't even keeping its promises to provide affordable healthcare to those with preexisting conditions. Prescription costs for drugs for diseases such as HIV or Crohn's disease beyond many people's budgets.
The nonprofit AIDS Institute is suing four Florida health insurers for discriminating against HIV/AIDS patients. The complaint says these patients now face prohibitive out-of-pocket drug costs. Sadly, most of the plans sold via ObamaCare all across the country have similar problems — leaving those with chronic diseases without affordable access to the specialty drugs they need.

The Affordable Care Act limits the degree to which insurers can charge higher premiums for sicker patients. But ObamaCare plans found a way around these rules: impose higher out-of-pocket costs for all or most specialty drugs.

Consider the Florida suit. Carl Schmid, the AIDS Institute deputy executive director, says the plans follow a “pattern where every single [HIV/AIDS] drug for some plans was on the highest tier, including generics.” Under these policies, drug costs for AIDS patients can exceed $1,000 a month.

And Florida’s hardly unusual. A new report from consulting group Avalere Health found that a large majority of all ObamaCare exchange plans include similarly high out-of-pocket costs for patients with certain illnesses.

The breakdown of Silver plans (the most popular category) is particularly revealing. In seven classes of drugs for conditions from cancer to bipolar disorder, more than a fifth of these plans require patients to shoulder 40 percent of the medicine’s cost.

And 60 percent of Silver plans place all drugs for illnesses like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis in the “formulary tier” with the highest level of cost-sharing.

Nearly every Silver plan across the country, in fact, puts at least one class of drug exclusively in the top cost-sharing tier. In effect, this leaves patients with a given condition — whether HIV or Crohn’s disease — without a single affordable treatment option.

Pre-ObamaCare, about half the states had a system in place for helping people with pre-existing conditions: state high-risk pool plans, which for years offered government-subsidized coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions. But the Affordable Care Act banned those pools.

Shades of Ivan the Terrible who, according to the legend, blinded the architects of St. Basil's Cathedral so they couldn't ever again construct such a glorious church. Hamas is said to have executed those who dug their tunnels so that they couldn't be captured by the Israelis and made to tell of the tunnels' locations. That's going to make recruiting new diggers when they try to rebuild their tunnel system rather difficult.

The administration keeps telling us that ISIS is no threat to Americans here at home. But just in time to cast doubt on that assurance, an alleged ISIS sympathizer was arrested today at JFK airport. Why shouldn't we worry about the threat they may pose to us. They sent out a video with this threat:
In the first of a five-part series released by Vice yesterday, titled "The Spread of the Caliphate," ISIS threatens to “raise the flag of Allah in the White House."

Abu Mosa, a spokesman for the Islamic State, says of Americans: "We will humiliate them everywhere, God willing, and we will raise the flag of Allah in the White House":
Maybe they don't have the capability to do so now, but they have the desire. And they've already demonstrated that they will exceed this administration's evaluation of their capabilities.

Hillary Clinton moves to separate herself from Obama's foreign policy. That's going to be a tough sell, but she's arguing now that we should have helped the Syrian rebels in the beginning before they got taken over by ISIS. She's letting us in on her claim that she argued that position in the counsel to the President, but he decided otherwise. This gave her the opportunity to take a real dig at the professed plan of this presidency, "Don't do stupid sh**."
This is what Clinton said about Obama’s slogan: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”
Well, if she felt that strongly, she should have resigned, but we don't see people taking that honorable step these days. Instead we get their rear-covering after the fact.

Obama is trying to defend his policies by arguing, as Marc Thiessen points out, that what has already happened will not happen. And nothing that is going on in the world today will put a shine on Hillary's foreign policy credentials.
Now, Obama tells the Times, “We’re not going to let [the Islamic State] create some caliphate through Syria and Iraq.” Too late, Mr. President, they already have. The only questions are how big that caliphate will get – and when it will train its sights on the American homeland.

No wonder Clinton is distancing herself from this Obama-created debacle in Iraq and Syria. But it’s not that simple. If she wants to achieve separation, she will have to answer some tough questions in the period ahead, such as: how hard did she really fight for arming and training the Free Syrian Army? Did she threaten to resign? What specifically did she advocate doing to help the opposition? Did she advocate air strikes against ISIS? And – most importantly – did she oppose Obama’s complete withdrawal from Iraq, which also “left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled”?

And when she’s done answering those questions, she is going to have to figure out a way to disown her now disastrous “reset” of relations with Russia – which has invaded Ukraine, annexed Crimea, and helped separatists shoot down a civilian airliner. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In other words, Obama’s secretary of state is going to have a hard time separating herself from Obama’s foreign policy. But the fact that she is trying to do so shows just what a disaster it is – and how vulnerable it makes her in 2016.
Paul Mirengoff thinks that Hillary is not going to have a smooth time of trying to portray herself as much more of a hardliner on foreign policy.
Should we take Clinton’s hard line remarks at face value? It’s difficult to. This, after all, is the Secretary of State who berated Prime Minister Netanyahu for not conceding enough to the PA. Are we to believe that suddenly there is no distance between the two?

Similarly, Clinton’s tough talk regarding jihad would be more convincing if she hadn’t waited until ISIS was running rampant in Iraq to express it publicly. Why didn’t she start talking about a cold war style effort against jihadists earlier?

But if we are to conclude that Clinton is insincere, we must explain what she hopes to gain from it. Her neo-conservative sounding foreign policy principles won’t endear her to her Party. In fact, they might help fuel a primary challenge.

And it isn’t even clear that Clinton’s hard line would help her in a general election. The American public doesn’t seemed all that “hepped-up” about a long, multi-front war against jihadists.

Clinton would, to be sure, like to present herself as a centrist if and when she runs for president against a Republican. But many of her remarks to Goldberg take her further to the mainstream conservative side of the spectrum than seems necessary.

What, then, is in it for Clinton to talk this way? My guess is that she sees Obama, and her time working for him, as an albatross, and feels she must distance herself from him at all costs. She can’t do so on domestic policy because (1) the party faithful wouldn’t stand for it and (2) this isn’t the realm of her participation in the Obama administration.

Clinton also may sense that things are likely to get worse for America and American interests when it comes to terrorism and jihad. If so, it makes sense for her to start positioning herself as a hardliner now.

As Rich Lowry writes, "President Obama Learns What the Underside of a Bus Looks Like, Courtesy of Hillary Clinton."

Bret Stephens writes of Hillary's metamorphosis into out an ├╝ber neo-conservative.
Robert Gates, who is the Captain Renault of our time, recounts the following White House exchange between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, back when she was serving the president loyally as secretary of state and he was taking notes as secretary of defense.

"In strongly supporting a surge in Afghanistan," Mr. Gates writes in his memoir, "Duty," "Hillary told the president that her opposition in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the primary. She went on to say, 'The Iraq surge worked.' The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying."

And if Mrs. Clinton supported the surge in private—because she thought it would help America win a war—but opposed it in public—because she needed to win a primary—shall we conclude that she is (a) despicable; (b) clever; (c) both; or (d) "what difference, at this point, does it make?"
Ouch! Stephens then goes on to all the hawkish things she said in her Atlantic interview and her not-so-subtle criticisms of Obama's foreign policy choices. She thinks no one will notice what a switch the things she's saying now are from her actions and words in the past.
Whatever happened to the Hillary Clinton who was an early advocate of diplomatic engagement with Iran, and who praised Bashar Assad as a "reformer" and pointedly refused to call for his ouster six months into the uprising? Wasn't she the most vocal and enthusiastic advocate for the reset with Russia? Didn't she deliver White House messages to Benjamin Netanyahu by yelling at him? Didn't she also once describe former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak as a family friend?

And didn't she characterize her relationship with Mr. Obama—in that cloying "60 Minutes" exit interview the two of them did with Steve Kroft —as "very warm, very close"? Where's the love now?

There are a few possible answers to that one. One is that the views she expressed in the interview are sincere and long-held and she was always a closet neoconservative; Commentary magazine is delivered to her mailbox in an unmarked brown envelope. Another is that Mrs. Clinton can read a poll: Americans now disapprove of the president's handling of foreign policy by a 57% to 37% margin, and she belatedly needs to disavow the consequences of the policies she once advocated. A third is that she believes in whatever she says, at least at the time she's saying it. She is a Clinton, after all.

There's something to all of these theories: The political opportunist always lacks the courage of his, or her, convictions. That's not necessarily because there aren't any convictions. It's because the convictions are always subordinated to the needs of ambition and ingratiation.

Then again, who cares who Mrs. Clinton really is? When the question needs to be asked, it means we already know, or should know, how to answer it. The truth about Mrs. Clinton isn't what's potentially at stake in the next election. It's the truth about who we are. Are we prepared to believe anything?

We tried that with Barack Obama, the man who promised to be whatever we wanted him to be. Mrs. Clinton's self-reinvention as a hawk invites us to make the mistake twice.
I guess the Clintons have so successfully snowed the American people for two decades that she figures she can get away with it. Who, but conservatives, is paying any attention to her inconsistencies. Just as she tried to tell us in 2008 about the sniper fire she'd survived in flying into Bosnia until everyone exposed that for the lie it was. In other words, don't pay attention to what she says now, pay attention to what she did when she was in office.

The past couple of days have been an especially tense day in foreign affairs as news came out that Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is staging a coup. Walter Russel Mead notes that this still didn't stop the President from hitting the golf course. And with all that went on on Monday, Obama still had time to get in some beach time and a fundraiser in the evening. I guess he needs to relax from all the golf games and fundraisers he's been spending his time at in the past year.
Iraq is unraveling fast. If reports of fighting between Maliki’s forces and troops loyal to President Masoum turn out to be correct, it means that the factional fighting that has torn apart the provinces has now spread to the capital—even as ISIS waits outside, licking its chops.

The fact that President Obama thought that the day of an Iraqi coup was a good time to hang on the Vineyard and get on the links is bad news. Either the President blew off warnings from his advisors, or the intel community got blindsided again. Both possibilities reflect badly on the management of the nation’s affairs.

The unraveling of Iraq under the grimmest of circumstances is a major policy challenge for this president and for the United States as a whole. There’s nothing wrong with a president wanting some down time with the kids, but President Obama needs to be and be seen to be taking control of events. Going on vacation as the tanks roll in Baghdad and as Americans fly back into combat over Iraq is not where a leader needs to be.
He's even earned a tsk-tsking from Dana Milbank. But then he doesn't care about the impression of insouciance he gives out.

it's quite a contrast to what he said in 2008 when he was running for the job that he now takes so many breaks from.
ou have to understand that if you seek that office, then you have to be prepared to give your life to it. Essentially, the bargain that I think every President strikes with the American people is, ‘you give me this office, then in turn my fears, doubts, insecurities, foibles, need for sleep, family life, vacations, leisure, is gone. I am giving myself to you.’
I f he gave himself to us, can we give him back?

Is "liberal" just a synonym for "smug"?