Friday, December 05, 2014

Cruising the Web

Dana Milbank turned his satirical eye towards Hillary Clinton and her lackluster performance at Georgetown earlier this week. He notes that she couldn't fill half the hall. If Hillary can't get more than a few hundred students to come out and hear her, it's not a good sign for the presumptive Democratic nominee's ability to mobilize young people to come out for her in the numbers the Democrats would need for her to win in 2016. He concludes that Hillary has lost "that new car smell." Well, duh! She will have been on the public scene for almost a quarter century by 2016. Not only that, but she seems to speak in meaningless platitudes.
“I’m a big believer in trying to make decisions based on evidence wherever possible,” she reported. She also spoke, numbingly, of her “commitment to launch a series of practical discussions on the implementation of national action plans,” and of her effort “to call for the institution of a representative to the secretary general to begin at the U.N. level to try to implement what were the sentiments and the aspirations behind these actions.”

There was supposed to have been a Q&A following Clinton’s remarks, but the moderator, former Clinton adviser Melanne Verveer, said there was no time for that and instead read Clinton a single question about Syria and Ukraine. Clinton ventured her opinions that Ukraine will have to “rebuild its military forces” and that “Syria is now a multi-sided conflict.”

The ride and handling were stable. The acceleration and braking were adequate. But this car was not new.
A commitment to practical discussions to implement national action plans. Wow, she seems to have been swallowed whole by bureaucratese. As James Taranto points out, Hillary has fully embraced her gender as her main argument for her potential candidacy.
“Those who bothered to listen,” Milbank writes, “could have heard the rationale for Clinton’s candidacy.” OK, let’s listen as Milbank quotes her: “We know when women contribute in making and keeping peace, entire societies enjoy better outcomes,” she said. “Women leaders, it has been found, are good at building coalitions across ethnic and sectarian lines and speaking up for other marginalized groups. . . . They act more as mediators to help foster compromise and to try to organize, to create the changes they seek.” So the rationale for Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy is that she’s a woman and women are wonderful.

To be sure, this was in keeping with the theme of the occasion (a conference called “Smart Power: Security Through Inclusive Leadership” sponsored by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security). But there’s further evidence that the central theme of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign—if a campaign it is—is sex stereotypes. Stand With Hillary, a super PAC supporting Mrs. Clinton, is out with a new 3½-minute ad featuring a country song likewise titled “Stand With Hillary.”

National Journal has the full cringe-inducing lyrics (with value added in the form of sarcastic commentary from NJ’s Emma Roller):
I’ve been thinkin’ about one great lady like the women in my life [“Women” ≠ “one great lady”]
She’s a mother, a daughter, and through it all, she’s a lovin’ wife [Are these really the first credentials you want to cite for supporting someone running for president?]
Oh, there is something about her, this great lady, caring, hard-working, once a First Lady [expertly rhymes “lady” with “lady”]
She fights for country and my family, now it’s time for us to stand up
We’d say Roller’s first complaint is overly pedantic, but the other two are on target, and the second makes the important substantive point. To which we would add that, while by all appearances Mrs. Clinton is indeed “a lovin’ wife,” she is also a long-sufferin’ one, and the Clinton marriage would be great material for an actual country song, if not a whole album.

The song does not mention that Mrs. Clinton served in the U.S. Senate or the State Department—though it alludes to the latter by dropping the title of her Foggy Bottom memoir (“And there’s some hard choices that need to be made”). It does assert that she’s “got vision,” but says little about what it is she sees.

In case great lady, mother, daughter, lovin’ wife and former first lady don’t get the point across, the lyrics exhort: “Guys put your boots on, and let’s smash this ceiling!” If you’ve ever wondered what an actual glass ceiling looks like, this video won’t satisfy your curiosity: It shows someone smashing a car windshield (which has already been vandalized with spray paint).

“This is a smart way for [Mrs.] Clinton to position herself,” Milbank asserts. “Last time, she largely avoided campaigning on her potential to be the first female president.” But she lost to a man who largely avoided campaigning on his potential to be the first black president. Other countries have had female leaders, but can anyone imagine Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher or Angela Merkel asking her countrymen to vote for her on the ground that “women . . . are good at building coalitions across ethnic and sectarian lines and speaking up for other marginalized groups”?

So we don't have to, some conservative commentators have trudged through her actual speech to find some real nuggets of stupidity. Ed Morrissey looks at Hillary's definition of "smart power" which, according to Clinton, includes empathizing with the point of view of our enemies.
Empathize? It was empathy that produced the notorious “reset button” Hillary presented to Sergei Lavrov, and the Russian point of view with which she and the Obama administration empathized was that everything was George Bush’s fault. The flat-footed response to Russian aggression ever since shows exactly why analysis and empathy are two very different things, and why one’s necessary and the other results in naive and feckless policies. The Obama administration utterly failed to define the problems that were already clear by the time Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 because it was too busy trying to woo Vladimir Putin rather than put policies in place that would discourage him from adventurism.

Besides, with which enemies are we called to empathize now? Iran? Well, the mullahs are still murdering gays and lesbians, oppressing their people, rigging elections, calling for the extermination of Israel, and building a nuclear weapon with which to accomplish it. Also, they are sponsoring terrorist networks like Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad while helping fuel the war in Iraq with its backing of Nouri al-Maliki’s purges prior to his ejection as Prime Minister. It’ll be mighty difficult to find points of empathy with the government that still refers to the US as The Great Satan, but Hillary sure tried — and John Kerry is still trying, too.
John Hinderaker has also delved into the boring idiocy that was Hillary's speech and found Hillary's call for more women making foreign policy.
But she also told the audience that the world still has a long way to go in terms women’s participation.

Of the hundreds of peace treaties signed since the early 1990s, between or within nations, she said fewer than 10 percent had any female negotiators and fewer than 3 percent had women as signatories.

“Is it any wonder that many of these agreements fail between [sic] a few years?” Clinton asked.
It’s enough to give non sequiturs a bad name! But beyond the easy ridicule, there is a serious point: liberalism of the Clinton variety is utterly out of ammo. Hillary has no ideas of any intellectual or strategic significance. All she can do is utter platitudes and pander to 1970s-style feminism. And for this she gets $300,000 a pop?

The Obama administration’s foreign policies have failed pretty much across the board, but if Hillary has any idea why, she isn’t telling.
So how does Hillary's call for more women making foreign policy sit in accord with her desire to empathize with Islamic nations that relegate women to second-class status? Would Iran regard it as "smart power" for Hillary to speak to them about how they should have more women around the negotiating table. She might want to rethink that empathy idea.

Senator Sessions has found some proof that President Obama's amnesty plan isn't as outside the budgetary process as the administration has claimed.
Federal officials are hiring 1,000 permanent employees to open a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Virginia that will help implement President Obama’s recent executive orders on immigration.

“USCIS is taking steps to open a new operational center in Crystal City, a neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia, to accommodate about 1,000 full-time, permanent federal and contract employees in a variety of positions and grade levels,” the agency announced Monday in a bulletin flagged by Senator Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.). “The initial workload will include cases filed as a result of the executive actions on immigration announced on Nov. 20, 2014.”

Sessions said that the bulletin emphasizes the need for Congress to withhold funding for the agency.

“Some have suggested that implementing this amnesty would not have a financial cost, but this action unmistakably demonstrates otherwise,” he said in the statement. “The President cannot spend money unless the Congress approves it, and certainly the Congress should not approve funds for an illegal amnesty.”
It makes sense that nothing done by the federal government could be done without the involvement of many bureaucrats.

Ramesh Ponnuru discusses Jeb Bush's biggest problem - he has become known most prominently recently for taking positions at odds with the base. But those positions most probably won't help him in the general election.
But Bush's stand on Common Core won't help him much in the general election. For the most part, it isn't an issue of federal policy. So he has stumbled into a fight with the party base that won't yield him any long-term political gains. And while his stand on immigration could arguably help his chances in 2016, it doesn't solve the party's basic economic problem. The risk is that these stances will exhaust Republicans' tolerance for heterodoxy, and leave Bush with less room to adopt a new economic platform. A nominee who conservatives viewed as an ideological soul mate might have more leeway....

Maybe Bush can overcome this dynamic. Maybe he can do just what his party needs for victory in 2016. But if I'm right that Republicans need to show they're responsive to the economic concerns of most people, not just those in boardrooms, and that to do so they need the trust of the most conservative voters in the party -- well, then maybe telling a group of CEOs that he's willing to tick those voters off isn't the best way to start.
As Ponnuru points out, Rand Paul has the same problem with his foreign policy positions. And we saw how well that taking iconoclastic positions within the Republican Party and then criticizing those conservatives who disagree with him didn't do all that much for Jon Huntsman.

Maybe all the fluttering about a Jeb candidacy is useless since, as A.B. Stoddard writes, he's most probably not going to run anyway.
Bush has thought about running. Frankly, as a Bush, it is his duty when party stalwarts plead with him to save the party and rescue the country to say, yes, it would be his honor to consider the mission. But he knows more than any candidate, save for Hillary Clinton, who has run her own campaign and was spouse in two, how awful running for president can be. He saw his father and brother each do it twice, followed by what happened once they served as president as well.

People who run for president burn for the prize, focus only on the outcome, so what keeps them going once they realize it’s a buzz saw is drive. Bush has seen the vortex up close, and he doesn’t sound the least bit driven.
In some ways it would be nice to have someone in office who hasn't spent his or her life burning with ambition to be president. Hillary Clinton has that stench of burning ambition. Jeb Bush doesn't. But if I am looking for someone who hasn't been burning up with ambition his or her adult life, I'd prefer Paul Ryan rather than Jeb Bush. And it's a shame, because I've always liked Jeb for his leadership on school reform in Florida. I don't despise Common Core as much as some conservatives and I don't even disagree with his desire to have immigration reform. I just am put off by his moral preening on the subject.

David Harsanyi takes a rhetorical meat cleaver to Michael Tomasky's argument that somehow only conservatives are extremists.
All of this springs from the biggest myth of the day: The notion that one party is far more extreme than the other. Ambinder claims that GOP “extremism” attracts a larger share of voters than liberal “extremism” does. He writes that the “GOP has become more openly conservative (and therefore closer to the real views of their base voters) in the past 20 years.”

By offering that Republicans have become “more openly conservative” the insinuation is that they’ve been batsh**t crazy but are only now being honest about it. It’s been generally accepted by the media that the GOP has gone full Bircher while the Democrats are still a reasonable left-of-center entity. By believing their own press releases, Democrats saw no more need to debate.

Never mind that the liberal consensus on social and economic policy is far to the left of where it was a decade ago. Never mind that only one of these parties unilaterally instituted reforms that sit outside the tradition of American governance. To a liberal pundit, a voter who favors low taxes or a balanced budget or traditional marriage is a fanatic. Is “I don’t like Obamacare” really a radical idea? That seemed to the leading get-out-vote issue.

Daniel Henninger thinks that Chuck Schumer's speech about how passing Obamacare was a mistake is a sign of what the Democrats are seeing in the electorate. He posits that Schumer is a very canny politician who understands that Democrats have to pretend to more moderate than they are in order to get elected.
Because Sen. Schumer supported ObamaCare and defended other Obama policies, his critics say he’s a hypocrite. Oh my. Maybe these people didn’t understand the terms of the prenuptial agreement at this level of politics: Chuck Schumer was on board for whatever ride, program or gimmick the Democratic left wanted, so long as members of the party family kept winning re-election. Now they are not.

What Chuck Schumer said is probably less than half of what was on his mind. How about “climate change?” Not the great and honorable cause called climate change but the political strategy for gaining power.

Had Barack Obama found some pretext to approve the Keystone XL pipeline before the election, Democratic candidates would have had a case to make to the blue-collar voters who have just deserted the party.

Instead, climate change just got Louisiana’s Sen. Mary Landrieu thrown under the bus by the White House. Instead, as Mr. Schumer surely noticed, Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, has denounced the party. The union has 500,000 members.

Sen. Schumer knows exactly when the Democratic Party shifted from an organization able to cover many political bases to one willing to protect just its progressive base. It was 2006, when the left drove Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut out of the party with a primary defeat (he won anyway as an independent). Remember the giddy progressive dance after they engineered Sen. Lieberman’s primary defeat?

Chuck Schumer, who was running the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee then, might have accepted this as the cost of doing business with the party’s ascendant progressive coalition. It’s harder to accept when they start looking like losers.

With that speech, Chuck Schumer was sending an audible signal to state and local party bosses around the country and to peeved donors—aghast at the midterm results—that not everyone in Washington has lost his mind to the party’s Occupy-and-windmill wing.
Henninger points out that some elected Democrats are starting to get the message and are talking about tax cuts. The only question is whether the rest of the party will let them move to the center. That's the question usually asked about Republican politicians. It's time to realize that it's a relevant question for both parties.

Charles Krauthammer writes on the same theme as he describes the fights breaking out on the left.
That’s how you lose elections, Schumer argued . And forfeit large chunks of the traditional Democratic coalition. Health care was not a crisis in 2009 (nor in 1993 when Hillarycare led to another Democratic electoral disaster); it was an ideological imperative for Barack Obama and the liberal elites in charge of Congress — their legacy contribution to the welfare state.

As are Obama’s current cherished causes — climate change and amnesty for illegal immigrants. These are hardly the top priorities of a working and middle class whose median income declined as much during the Obama recovery as during the Great Recession.

The underlying Schumer challenge is that catering to coastal elites and select minorities is how you end up losing 64 percent of the white working class — which, though shrinking, is almost 50 percent larger in size than the black and Hispanic electorates combined....

From opposite sides of the (Democratic) spectrum, Schumer and Warren are trying to remake and reorient the Democratic Party post-Obama. So while Republicans are debating the tactics of stopping presidential lawlessness — an inherently difficult congressional undertaking, particularly if you still control only a single house — Democrats are trying to figure out what they believe and whom they represent.

Which do you think is the more serious problem?

Peggy Noonan is also thinking about Democratic divisions.
But it is the Democrats who are increasingly riven, divided, and unhappy.

They are rocked by defeat, newly confused as to their own meaning. They’re disappointed with each other, and angry. They know Harry Reid is a poor face of the party, a small-town undertaker who never gets around to telling you the cost of the casket. They have little faith in the strategic and tactical leadership coming from the White House. They recognize the president as an albatross around their necks. Nancy Pelosi is an attractive, noncredible partisan who just natters wordage.

That’s what they’ve got: an undertaker, an albatross, a natterer.

Democrats are individually trying to place themselves right with their own base, which grows more leftishly restive and is losing them the center. They’re trying to figure out how to cleave to that base while remaining politically viable.