Friday, February 13, 2015

Cruising the Web

The President filming himself with a Selfie Stick? Really? I'm with the Washington Post which ranked the video with a ranking of the Most Diminishing Moments of Obama's Buzzfeed video. I would have put the Selfie Stick at number one, but the obnoxious wink and tongue are also distressing lows in the history of the presidency. Is this sort of thing really what young people need to make their decisions about health insurance. And the juxtaposition of filming this as Yemen implodes while the State Department ordered U.S. Marines to retreat and destroy their weapons while we confirm the murder of an Kayla Meuller is not becoming to a man who gave an interview to a youtube star famed for her green lips and drinks cereal from a bathtub.

Charles Krauthammer nails what is wrong with President Obama's approach to all the international crises around the world.
His secretary of defense says, “The world is exploding all over.” His attorney general says that the threat of terror “keeps me up at night.” The world bears them out. On Tuesday, American hostage Kayla Mueller is confirmed dead. On Wednesday, the U.S. evacuates its embassy in Yemen, a country cited by President Obama last September as an American success in fighting terrorism.

Yet Obama’s reaction to, shall we say, turmoil abroad has been one of alarming lassitude and passivity.

Not to worry, says his national security adviser: This is not World War II. As if one should be reassured because the current chaos has yet to achieve the level of the most devastating conflict in human history. Indeed, insists the president, the real source of our metastasizing anxiety is . . . the news media.

Russia pushes deep into eastern Ukraine. The Islamic State burns to death a Jordanian pilot. Iran extends its hegemony over four Arab capitals — Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and now Sanaa.

And America watches. Obama calls the policy “strategic patience.” That’s a synonym for “inaction,” made to sound profoundly “strategic.”

Take Russia. The only news out of Obama’s one-hour news conference with Angela Merkel this week was that he still can’t make up his mind whether to supply Ukraine with defensive weapons. The Russians have sent in T-80 tanks and Grad rocket launchers. We’ve sent in humanitarian aid that includes blankets, MREs and psychological counselors.

How complementary: The counselors do grief therapy for those on the receiving end of the T-80 tank fire. “I think the Ukrainian people can feel confident that we have stood by them,” said Obama at the news conference.

Indeed. And don’t forget the blankets. America was once the arsenal of democracy, notes Elliott Abrams. We are now its linen closet.

Why no antitank and other defensive weapons? Because we are afraid that arming the victim of aggression will anger the aggressor.

Such on-the-ground appeasement goes well with the linguistic appeasement whereby Obama dares not call radical Islam by name. And whereby both the White House and State Department spend much of a day insisting that the attack on the kosher grocery in Paris had nothing to do with Jews. It was just, as the president said, someone “randomly shoot[ing] a bunch of folks in a deli.” (By the end of the day, the administration backed off this idiocy. By tweet.)
So what accounts for the President's attitude?
This passivity — strategic, syntactical, ideological — is more than just a reaction to the perceived overreach of the Bush years. Or a fear of failure. Or bowing to the domestic left. It is, above all, rooted in Obama’s deep belief that we — America, Christians, the West — lack the moral authority to engage, to project, i.e., to lead.

Before we condemn the atrocities of others, intoned Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast, we shouldn’t “get on our high horse.” We should acknowledge having authored the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, etc. “in the name of Christ.”

In a rare rhetorical feat, Obama managed to combine the banal and the repulsive. After all, is it really a revelation that all religions have transgressed, that man is fallen? To the adolescent Columbia undergrad, that’s a profundity. To a roomful of faith leaders, that’s an insult to one’s intelligence.

And in deeply bad taste. A coalition POW is burned alive and the reaction of the alliance leader barely 48 hours later is essentially: “Hey, but what about Joan of Arc?”

The conclusion to this patronizing little riff — a gratuitous and bizarre attack on India as an example of religious intolerance — received less attention than it merited. India? Our largest and most strategically promising democratic ally — and the most successful multiethnic, multilingual, multiconfessional country on the planet? (Compare India to, oh, its colonial twin, Pakistan.)

There is, however, nothing really new in Obama’s selective condemnation of America and its democratic allies. It is just a reprise of the theme of his post-inauguration 2009 confessional world tour. From Strasbourg to Cairo and the U.N. General Assembly, he indicted his own country, as I chronicled at the time, “for arrogance, for dismissiveness and derisiveness (toward Europe), for maltreatment of natives, for torture, for Hiroshima, for Guantánamo, for unilateralism, and for insufficient respect for the Muslim world.”

The purpose and the effect of such an indictment is to undermine any moral claim to American world leadership. The line between the Washington prayer breakfast and the Ukrainian grief counselors is direct and causal. Once you’ve discounted your own moral authority, once you’ve undermined your own country’s moral self-confidence, you cannot lead.

If, during the very week Islamic supremacists achieve “peak barbarism” with the immolation of a helpless prisoner, you cannot take them on without apologizing for sins committed a thousand years ago, you have prepared the ground for strategic paralysis.

All that’s left is to call it strategic patience.
James Taranto ponders "The Hazing of Scott Walker" and Walker's dodge on evolution saying that it isn't "a question a politician shouldn't be involved in one way or the other."
That prompted incoherent outrage from National Journal’s Ron Fournier. “Nobody who wants to be taken seriously for the presidency can duck a question like, ‘Do you believe in evolution[?]’ ” he wrote, using “can” to mean “should be able to.”

Why not? On that question, Fournier is a bit confused. On the one hand, he describes it as a political question of the utmost seriousness: “As a leader, Walker has a responsibility to explain to his supporters that evolution is fact and it’s not necessarily a contradiction of their religious faiths.” That’s just bunk: In a secular republic, it is decidedly not the responsibility of politicians to make authoritative pronouncements on theological questions. And the statement “evolution is fact” is more or less equivalent to “I believe in evolution.” It reflects such a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of science that it does not even rise to the level of falsehood.

On the other hand, Fournier acknowledges with a wink the question’s silliness: “There are virtually no questions that are out of bounds for a presidential candidate. Think of a campaign as a lengthy interview for a job with 300 million bosses, each with a singular set of standards for making a decision. What might be a stupid question to 99 percent of votes [sic] (‘Boxers or briefs?’) might matter to somebody.”
Yes, Scott Walker should be better prepared for such silly gotcha questions. He clearly recognized the question for what it was by his dodge. But he'll need to do better in the future since that is how the media like to interview Republicans.

Kevin Williamson traces the evolution of liberal media tactics in attacking conservative politicans.
When someone asks a politician whether he “believes in” evolution, he is not asking for a scientific opinion. If you want a scientific opinion, you ask a scientist, not a politician. What is instead being sought with that question is one of two things: 1) a profession of faith, not in science but in the half-informed worldview of the “I F******g Love Science,” Neil deGrasse Tyson–meme-affirming, enjoying-scientific-prestige-by-proxy crowd, or 2) a shameful public confession that one is a knuckle-dragging science “denier” who believes that the fossil record is a conspiracy of archeologists who get up in the morning and go to bed at night fuming about how much they hate the Baby Jesus. It is a purely political and rhetorical exercise.

The relevant scholars in the field do not “believe in” evolution, any more than a physicist “believes in” the proposition that objects subject to earth’s gravity accelerate toward the pavement at 9.8 meters per second squared — they know. As an intellectual matter, Scott Walker’s proclaiming that he “believes in” evolution would be precisely as meaningful as his proclaiming that he doesn’t “believe in” evolution — he has little or no relevant knowledge about the subject, and his choosing the right answer would be as intellectually significant as a chicken playing tic-tac-toe or infinite monkeys banging out Shakespearean sonnets on infinite typewriters. This is obvious if you ask a similar question about a field that doesn’t carry a similar pop-culture charge: Does Harry Reid believe that Ezra Pound’s contributions to The Waste-Land were in fact so profound and meaningful that he should be considered something like the coauthor of the poem? Who knows? I’d be surprised if he’d read The Waste-Land.

There are some boobs out there — some of them in the Republican party — who would, if entrusted with the awesome powers of the presidency, attempt to use those powers to strong-arm high-school biology teachers in Poughkeepsie into including the Genesis account of creation as part of their science curricula. If you want to know whether Scott Walker is one of them — or whether as president he’d insist that NASA use a pre-Copernican model of the solar system the next time it launches a Mars probe — then ask that question. Walker hasn’t given any indication that he is in fact such a politician, but if it sets anxious minds at ease, then, by all means, make the relevant inquiry.
Jonah Goldberg notes the double standard and proposes an answer for other Republicans who will surely be asked similar questions.
When Barack Obama was asked when life begins, he responded that such questions are above his pay grade, even though a president is in fact paid to make myriad decisions which hinge on precisely that question. But liberal politicians are allowed such dodges precisely because liberal journalists know what the politician really believes. Indeed, as a state legislator, Obama fought against a law that would have offered protections to babies accidentally born alive after an attempted abortion. That may not tell you where Obama thinks life begins, but it does tell you where Obama thinks it doesn’t.

Heck, we now know that Obama lied about opposing gay marriage on religious grounds, or at least that’s what David Axelrod, his most trusted aide, says in his new book. Obama is forgiven by his admirers in the press and elsewhere on the left because they never believed that he opposed gay marriage in the first place and understood that he had to say he did to get elected. Noble lies for me, cynicism for thee.

Politicians have to deal with the press and the electorate as it is, and that means they have to answer bad-faith questions about their faith. Whether they lie is ultimately up to them. Whether they get away with it is up to the rest of us.

Still, I’d rather get the full truth. If you think evolution is wrong or flawed, I’m keen on hearing your arguments. “Punting” simply sounds like you’re afraid to answer, which amounts to the answer the questioner was looking for. My own answer would be something like: “Not that it much matters for the job I’m seeking, but I think the evidence shows that all life evolves. Why is there life, and what are we supposed to do with it? Only God knows.”

The Washington Examiner explains why we shouldn't be concerned that Scott Walker didn't finish college.
“Even now, I wonder what I might have accomplished if I'd studied harder.”

This regretful remark, delivered to Eureka College's graduating class of 1982, inspired uproarious laughter from the audience. Why? Because it came from a sitting president of the United States. Ronald Reagan, despite his admittedly mediocre grades, had already made it just about as far as anyone can.

Ideally, college study helps to form the whole person. But to some extent, and for most Americans, it is viewed as a means to an end — a preparation for later accomplishments in life.

Today, there still exists a very small, elite world in which school ties can pull big strings. Outside of that world, neither grades, nor school pedigree, nor even possession of a finished degree matter very much. Those who have already entered the professional world and shown themselves capable of handling its rigors are seldom asked about their education when applying for the second, third or fourth jobs of their career.

Even so, the concerns of that elite have suddenly been aroused because one of the leading Republican contenders for president — Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin — quit school without finishing his bachelor's degree. Walker quit college in good standing, but 34 credits shy of graduation.

“During my senior year at Marquette University,” he said in his 2013 State of the State speech, “I was offered a full-time job at the American Red Cross. I thought I would squeeze in a course here or there and finish things off in a year or two, but then Tonette and I got married. Then we had Matt. And then came Alex. Next thing you know, you're putting all your extra time and money into your kids.”

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean argued this week on television – to the incredulity of his MSNBC host – that “the issue is, how well-educated is this guy? And that's a problem.”

Perhaps it is a problem for Dean, who was born into great wealth in East Hampton, N.Y. But Walker's path is not really that uncommon for students from lower- and middle-class backgrounds. For those lacking family money to fall back on, it can be difficult to turn down the certainty of a suitable, attractive job simply in order to check the box on a degree — the primary purpose of which, after all, is to help one find a suitable, attractive job.

Much like the gotcha question about evolutionary biology that was recently tossed at Walker (he declined to answer), this newfound and irrelevant discussion about his education is really just a dog-whistle — one of the few that certain members of the Northeastern white liberal gentry still feel comfortable blowing. A college degree shows certain people that someone is "one of us." But of all the potential reasons to oppose Walker, his incomplete college career should not be one of them.
What should be considered so awful that a student leaves college a year short of his degree without finishing because he took a job? For most students, that is the reason for going to college. It clearly hasn't kept him back - he's a state's governor who just got reelected. Let's not exaggerated the worth of that year in college for a person's worth. Liberals are so funny. They totally discounted George W. Bush's two Ivy League degrees and now they're contemptuous of someone who didn't finish college but got a job with the Red Cross instead. Michelle Obama encourages students to go work and volunteer for non-profits, but now it's supposedly a disqualifier that Scott Walker did exactly that? Come on.

What liberals don't understand is that such silly attacks on Walker will only make him more popular among Republican voters. As Churchill said, "Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.""