Friday, February 20, 2015

Cruising the Web

John Kerry pronounces what he believes is the best way to fight terrorism. It's the Marie Harf approach.
The most basic issue is good governance. It may not sound exciting, but it is vital. People who feel that their government will provide for their needs, not just its own, and give them a chance at a better life are far less likely to strap on an AK-47 or a suicide vest, or to aid those who do.
I'm sure that will do well in stopping ISIS. This administration continually shows a lack of understanding of what Isis really wants. If only they would read Graeme Wood's illuminating essay in The Atlantic on just that subject.

Scott Johnson has a question for President Obama.
Obama appears as the defender of the faith and the Muslim faithful. He defends Islam against its supposed adversaries in Al Qaeda, the numerous regional affiliates of Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ansar al Islam, al Shabaab, the al Nusrah Front, Boko Haram and other such terrorist groups waging jihad against the infidels. Obama argues that conceding their claim to Islam in any sense grants them the legitimacy they crave. Speaking with the full authority of his office, Obama refuses to give them what they crave.

To you and me, these groups have a common denominator. The common denominator presents a challenge to Obama and his doctrine, but this is one challenge he refuses to shirk.

Putting these foreign terrorist organizations to one side, however, what does Obama’s doctrine say about the Islamic Republic of Iran? Iran is of course a notorious state sponsor of terrorism. Do the mullahs also misunderstand the tenets of the faith they proclaim? I wish someone would address that question to Obama.

Andrew McCarthy notes this typical behavior from this administration.
You may understandably think of it as an ISIS jobs fair, but the ongoing confab in Washington is officially known as President Obama’s “summit” on “Countering Violent Extremism.” That being the case, many Americans seem surprised at the appearance of Salam al-Marayati, leader of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). After all, the White House is having a public hissy fit over the upcoming speech to Congress by Obama’s bĂȘte noire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. An odd time, one might think, for the POTUS to be so chummy with a Muslim activist best know for theorizing, right after the 9/11 attacks, that “we should put the State of Israel on the suspect list.”

Ron Fournier slams the Clintons for their "sleazy and stupid" decision to have their foundation accept donations from foreign countries.
This is stupid because it undermines the narrative of her unofficial campaign—one of the world's most famous women challenging the "glass ceiling" of U.S. politics. Some of these donor countries have no respect for women. Saudi Arabia has such a poor record that Clinton herself praised the "brave" Saudi women who defied their nation's ban on female drivers.

This is sleazy because her foundation takes money from countries that fund terrorism. A Wikileaks cable quoted then-Secretary of State Clinton saying, "Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide." The United Arab Emirates also was implicated in the memo.

This is stupid because it plays into a decades-old knock on the Clintons: They'll cut any corner for campaign cash. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton and his top aides used the White House as a tool to court and reward big donors. It was the second-biggest scandal of his presidency.
We all know that countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Oman aren't giving money to the Clinton Foundation out of their charitable beliefs. These aren't nations known for their global, non-strings-attached donations. They're buying influence. As Kimberley Strassel writes,
With the news this week that Mrs. Clinton—the would-be occupant of the White House—is landing tens of millions from foreign governments for her shop, it’s long past time to drop the fiction that the Clinton Foundation has ever been a charity. It’s a political shop. Bill and Hillary have simply done with the foundation what they did with cattle futures and Whitewater and the Lincoln Bedroom and Johnny Chung—they’ve exploited the system.

Most family charities exist to allow self-made Americans to disperse their good fortune to philanthropic causes. The Clinton Foundation exists to allow the nation’s most powerful couple to use their not-so-subtle persuasion to exact global tribute for a fund that promotes the Clintons.

Oh sure, the foundation doles out grants for this and that cause. But they don’t rank next to the annual Bill Clinton show—the Clinton Global Initiative event—to which he summons heads of state and basks for a media week as post-presidential statesman. This is an organization that in 2013 spent $8.5 million in travel expenses alone, ferrying the Clintons to headliner events. Those keep Mrs. Clinton in the news, which helps when you want to be president.

It’s a body that exists to keep the Clinton political team intact in between elections, working for the Clintons’ political benefit. Only last week it came out that Dennis Cheng, who raised money for Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 bid, and then transitioned to the Clinton Foundation’s chief development officer, is now transitioning back to head up Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 fundraising operation. Mr. Cheng has scored $248 million for the foundation, and his Rolodex comes with him. The Washington Post reported this week that already half the major donors backing Ready for Hillary, a group supporting her 2016 bid, are also foundation givers.

John Podhoretz highlights one of Clinton's biggest problems for 2016: beyond her lack of accomplishments and history of sleazy deals, she's quite tedious.
Once a figure of intense controversy, Clinton has devolved into a piece of politico-cultural institutional furniture — imposing, sturdy, solid, stolid, dull. She just sits there, immobile while action swirls around her, taking up all the space in the Democratic living room.

She’s now primarily famous for being famous; indeed, she is one of the best-known people on this planet, and has been for nearly a quarter-century.

Certainly she doesn’t have her insuperable lead in Democratic polling because of the durability of her legislative achievements during her eight years in the Senate or for her innovative policies as secretary of state.

Most striking, she has never said something really interesting that wasn’t an unintentional gaffe (“dead broke,” “politics of meaning,” “baking cookies,” “Tammy Wynette”).

Now contrast this with the Republicans bidding for 2016.

Jake Tapper reports on what David Axelrod revealed in his book about what Obama's true priorities are.
In David Axelrod's new book "Believer: My Forty Years In Politics", the top adviser to President Obama recounts a scene before the 2012 reelection campaign when the president composed his "Bulworth" list of "issues on which he felt he had been insufficiently forthright."

These are things "I'll want to work on in my second term," the president told his top staffers, as one of them referenced the Warren Beatty movie Bulworth, in which a candidate goes on a reckless spree of truth-telling. "Some of them may make you guys nervous. But Axe keeps saying I should be 'authentic.' So maybe I should go out there and just let it rip."

Axelrod book: Obama lied on same-sex marriage

In addition to revealing his actual position in favor of legal same-sex marriages, and working on immigration reform and to combat climate change, the president singled out the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Axelrod wrote. Specifically, he wanted to be tougher on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"From almost his first day in office, (President Obama) had pushed the Israelis and Palestinians for a two-state solution, but his efforts, like those of presidents before him, had been run aground by the intractable politics of the Middle East. He was frustrated with both sides, but felt he had pulled his punches with Netanyahu to avoid antagonizing elements of the American Jewish community."
Gee, if only he desired to be so tough with other countries in the Middle East. Iran, anybody? Do we ever see the sort of vituperation and frustration expressed by this administration about Israel directed toward Iran? Or Hamas?

Joe Biden says that the middle class is now "in the worst shape in any time since the twenties." Gee, which administration has been office while the middle class is "getting killed."

The White House gets a new head of communications - the totally underwhelming and laughable Jen Psaki of the State Department. I'd say that this was an example of the Peter Principle, but I think she had already demonstrated that in her previous job.

Dang: it seems that Glenn Reynolds had the exact same thought about the Peter Principle. Great minds....

Michael Mukasey and David Rivkin examine how the President's proposed authorization for the use of military force will damage our nation's separation of powers.
Despite the benefits of traditional AUMFs, President Obama’s proposal is fundamentally flawed. Attempting to obtain political cover for his strategy to fight Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, he has asked Congress to ban “enduring offensive ground operations” and to terminate the authorization after three years.

Congress cannot restrain the president’s core constitutional authority to wage war, even when congressionally imposed restrictions are minor—as was true with 2001 legislation that purported to limit the president’s authority to place U.S. armed forces under the command of foreign officers as part of U.N. peacekeeping missions. Congress did not bar the president from placing U.S. troops under foreign command, but merely required that certain procedures be followed in such cases. Even so, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel correctly concluded that “it is unconstitutional for Congress to place conditions, whether substantive or procedural, on the president’s exercise of his constitutional authority as Commander-in-Chief.”

Every president from Richard Nixon on has maintained that the 1973 War Powers Resolution, requiring that the president notify Congress within 60 days of committing U.S. troops abroad, is unconstitutional. Yet each president also has—voluntarily—complied with it. Except President Obama, who directed U.S. military intervention in Libya and claimed that the 1973 law did not apply because the effort was too limited to be called a “war.” Yet now the Obama AUMF purports to impose major constraints on the president’s commander-in-chief authority—both his own, and his successors’.
Though what would be new about Obama damaging separation of powers/

Kudos to the University of Pennsylvania law professors who are protesting the school's new sexual assault policies for denying due process to accused students.

Apparently, Barack Obama was always so loath to call terrorism "Islamic." But now his administration equivocates.
n his 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama referred to "Islamic-based terrorism" and "Islamic militants" and "militant Islamic organizations." But at other times, Obama was deeply reluctant to connect the words "Islamic" and "terrorism."

In April 2007, for example, Obama outlined his vision of a post-Bush, post-Iraq world during an address at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The speech was missing something. "Remarkably, he doesn't mention Islam, much less Islamic extremism," a Washington Post editorial noted....

Still later, yet another reporter asked about a comment from State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, who during a TV interview Wednesday discussed the Lord's Resistance Army in Africa. "That's a Christian militant group," Harf said, correctly. The question for Earnest was: Why does the administration refer to a Christian militant group as Christian when it won't refer to an Islamic militant group as Islamic?

"Well, I did not see my colleague's comments on this topic," Earnest said, "so I don't want to sort of weigh in and try to explain what she meant."

At that moment, the administration's self-created confusion became total. The men and women who face reporters each day, trying to explain the president's policies, simply don't know what to say when it comes to the terrorist attacks that so often dominate the news.

At the summit, Obama said Americans "can't shy away" from discussing the true nature of terrorism. And yet that is what his White House is doing every day, to the utter confusion of those whose job it is to deliver the president's message.

M. G. Oprea uses linguistics to explain in The Federalist to explain why being PC about Islamic terrorism helps such speakers ignore the true nature of the threat.
It can lull those who wish to be in denial about violence in the name of Islam into a false sense of security about the reality they have constructed around themselves. This is a reality wherein there is no more violence done today in the name of Islam than any other religion—and, more to the point, that these terrorists are not motivated by religion but by a vague thing called “extremism.” Using the term “violent extremism” in lieu of “Islamic terrorism” crucially fails to acknowledge that in order to be an “extremist” you must be extreme about something. You can’t be an extremist about nothing.

By refusing to utter the word “Islamist,” people can make-believe about the world. The more they exclude “Islamism” or “Islamist terrorism” from their lexicon, the less credence they will give to the possibility that groups like ISIS are in fact motivated by religion. The very serious danger in this is that without naming violence done in the name Islam for what it is, it will be extremely difficult to make any headway in combating these groups, or their recruitment tactics.

Michael Barone, who has written a very good history of Britain's Glorious Revolution, ponders President Obama's "reckless disregard of the law" and Obama's similarities to the king that revolution overthrew, James II.
Reckless disregard of the law is an ingrained habit in President Obama’s administration. After six years its legal interpretations have been rejected by unanimous rulings of the Supreme Court more often than in the eight years of George W. Bush’s administration.

The Court ruled 9-0 that Obama couldn’t make recess appointments when the Senate said it was not in recess. It ruled 9-0 that the government couldn’t decide whom a church could classify as clergy. It ruled 9-0 that the government couldn’t fine landowners $75,000 a day to appeal an administrative order blocking construction in an alleged wetland.

The Constitution authorizes Congress to pass laws and requires the president to faithfully execute them. Obama seems to take that as not so much a requirement as a suggestion, one he sees fit to ignore when he wants to “change the law.”

The Constitution’s framers wrote the faithful execution clause because they remembered that King James II claimed and exercised the power to suspend laws passed by Parliament whenever he liked. James was forced to flee England in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and in 1689 Parliament passed a Bill of Rights declaring “that the pretended power of suspending the laws or the execution of laws by regal authority without consent of Parliament is illegal.”

There is a continuum between lawful exercise of discretion and unlawful suspension of the law. Time and again, Obama has lurched toward the wrong end of it.

Jay Cost, who has written a history of the Democratic Party, Spoiled Rotten, writes today why he agrees with Michael Brendan Dougherty that Andrew Jackson is our "worst great president."
He broke the law, pretty egregiously.

After the 1832 election, which Jackson won handily, he sought to destroy the Second Bank by removing federal deposits from its vaults. Congress had given that authority to the secretary of the treasury, and only if the deposits were deemed unsafe. The House of Representatives had recently affirmed that the deposits were indeed secure, and Secretary William Duane (whom Jackson had expressly selected because his predecessor, Louis McLane, was too pro-Bank) refused to remove the funds. So Jackson fired him, and installed Roger Taney to do the dirty work.

But it gets worse: Jackson’s cronies expressly sent the federal deposit funds to local banks that were loyal to Jackson. They were known as the “pet” banks. Moreover, in a blatant conflict of interest, Taney’s friends in Baltimore also got a piece of the action.

So, return to Jackson’s veto message against the Second Bank. In it, he says:

There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing.

Now, compare that to what he actually did: He allowed Bank funds to be used as a form of political payoff.

That, to me, is Jackson in a nutshell. He talked a big game about republican virtue, rooting out corruption, and honest government -- but when it came time to act on it he was partial, fractious, corrupt, and dangerous. Removing the deposits from the Bank ultimately hurt the economy, and the United States did not have anything approaching a reasonable system of public finance until Salmon Chase became treasury secretary in 1861.

This is the most I am willing to admit of Jackson: In his borderline sociopathic conflation of his own vanity with the national interest, he occasionally expanded the powers of the chief executive; some of these expansions were useful to truly great men like Lincoln, who had a more fair and impartial sense of the world.

Overall, his tenure was dangerous to the republican quality of the nation. Was he the worst president we’ve ever had? No. One of his successors -- Franklin Pierce and Buchanan, both Jacksonians (not coincidentally) -- probably deserve that dubious distinction because they were inept in the face of crisis. But I think the only way to praise Jackson is to overhype his virtues and overlook his many, many flaws.
My students often ask me who I think were the best and worst presidents. The best is easy - Abraham Lincoln without any doubt. For the worst, I don't want to get involved in imposing my political beliefs on my students so I avoid recent presidents and tell them that James Buchanan retired the prize. He combined political ineptness with political corruption. Not a nice combination.

This was fun. Watch CNN hosts meet in a Jeopardy-style contest on presidential trivia. You can see which hosts truly know nothing of American history. I would have so rocked this event. I'm a storehouse of presidential trivia that I enjoy presenting to my students in a weekly Question of the Week that they can research and gain a bit of extra credit for answering.